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After The Funeral By Agatha Christie - AFTER THE...

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After The Funeral By Agatha Christie

After The Funeral By Agatha Christie - AFTER THE...

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Unformatted text preview: AFTER THE FUNERALRichard Abernethie died a very wealthy man. All therelatives who attended his funeral benefited by his death.Although the newspaper announcements of his death said 'suddenly athis residence; there was no reasonto suspect that hisdeath was anything but a natural one - or was there? One person certainly thought so, and old MrEntwhistle, thefamily lawyer, was uneasy. He began to consider the variousmembers of the Abernethie family. Though outwardlyprosperous, how badly did they need the money oldRichard's death-brought them? Succeeding events deepenedMr Entwhistle's uneasiness /into active alarm. How bestcould he serve the interests of the Abernethie family, andwhat would his dead friend Richard Abernethie have wishedhim to do?Entwhistle goes for help to Hercule Poirot, an old friend ofhis, and the little Belgian solves things in his own inimitableway; making sense out of apparent nonsense; piecing thingstogether from such widely different clues as a piece ofwedding cake and a bouquet of wax flowers.If there is one thing better than an Agatha Christie, it is anAgatha Christie with Poirot. AJer the Funeral shows thishappy partnership at its unbeatable best.BOOKS BY AGATHA CHRISTIEThe ABC MurdersAfter the FuneralAppointment with DeathThe Big FourBy the Prickiug of my ThumbsA Caribbean MysteryThe ClocksCurtain: Poirot's Last CaseDeath Comes as the EndDeath on the NileDumb WitnessEndless NightExperiment with Death4.5tYum PaddingtonHercuh' Pnirot's ChristmasThe HollowThe Labnurs of HerculesLord Edgware DiesMiss Marple's Fiual CasesThe Moving FingerMurder al the VicarageMurder in the MewsThe Murder of Roger AckmydThe Myswrious Mr QuirtNemesisOne, Two, Bookie My Shoe The Pale HorsePassenger m FrankfurtA Pocket Full of RyePostern of FateThe Sew'n Dials MysterySleeping MurderTaken at theThey 1)o It With MirrorsThirwen fir LuckThree-Act DagedyWhy Didn't They Ask Evans?The Adventure of the Christmas PuddingAnd Then There Were NoneAt Bertram's HotelThe Body in the LibraryCards on the TableCat Among the PigeonsCrooked HouseDead Man's FollyDeath in the CloudsDestination UnknownElephants Can RememberEvil Under the SunFive Little PigsHallowe'en PartyHickory Dickory DockThe Hound of DeathThe Listerdale MysteryThe Mirrnr Crack'd fi'on Side tn SideMrs McGinty's DeadA Murder is AnnouncedMurder in MesopotamiaMurder is EasyMurder on the Orient ExpressThe Mystery of the Blue TrainN or M?Ordeal by hmocenceParker Pyne InvestigatesPeril at End HousePoirut's Early CasesSad CypressThe Sittaford MysterySparkling CyanideThey Came to BaghdadThird GirlThirteen ProblemsTowards Zeroetc etc.Come Tell Me How You LiveAgatha Christie: An AutobiographyAFTERT}tI' E FUNERALAgatha ChristieCOLLINS88 8 Grafton Street, London WiWilliam Collins Sons and Co LtdLondon Glasgow. Sydney- AucklandToronto 'Johannesburgin memory of happy daysat AbneyISBN o oo e3o9 8First published 953This reprint 986 Agatha Christie 953Made and Printed in Great Britain byWilliam Collins Sons and Co Lid, GlasgowCHAPTER IOLD LANSCOMBE moved totteringly from room to room, pullingup the blinds. Now and then he peered with screwed uprheumy eyes through the windows.Soon they would be coming back from the funeral. Heshuffled along a little faster. There were so many windows.Enderby Hall was a vast Victorian house built in the Gothicstyle. In every room the curtains were of rich faded brocadeor velvet. Some of the walls were still hung with faded silk.In the green drawing-room, the old butler glanced up at theportrait above the mantelpiece of old Cornelius Abernethiefor whom Enderby Hall had been built. Cornelius Abernethie'sbrown beard stuck forward aggressively, his hand rested ona terrestrial globe, whether by desire of the sitter, or asa symbolic conceit on the part 'of the artist, no one couldtell.A very forceful looking gentleman, s6 old Lanscombe hadalways thought, and was glad that he himself had never knownhim personally. Mr. Richard had been his gentleman. A goodmaster, Mr. Richard. And taken very sudden, he'd been,though of course the doctor had been attending him for somelittle time. Ah, but the master had never recovered from theshock of young Mr. Mortimer's death. The old man shookhis head as he hurried through a connecting door into theWhite Boudoir. Terrible, that had been, a real catastrophe.Such a fine upstanding young gentleman, so strong andhealthy. You'd never have thought such a thing likely tohappen to him. Pitiful, it had been, quite pitiful. AndMr. Gordon killed in the war. One thing on top of another.That was the way things went nowadays. Too much for themaster, it had been. And yet he'd seemed almost himselfa week ago.The third blind in the White Boudoir refused to go up as itshould. It went up a little way and stuck. The springs wereweak--that's what it was--very old, these blinds were, likeeverything else in the house. And you couldn't get these oldthings mended nowadays. Too old-fashioned, that's whatthey'd say, shaking their heads in that silly superior way--asif the old things weren't a great deal better than the newones! He could tell them that! Gimcrack, half the new5stuff was---ca,ne to pieces in your hand. The material wasn'tgood, or the craftsmanship either. Oh yes, could tellthem.Couldn't do nything about this blind unless he got thesteps. He didn t like climbing up the steps much, these days,made him come over iddy. Anyway, he'd leave the blindfor now. It didn't matter, since the White Boudoir didn'tface the front of the house where it would be seen as the carscame back from the funeral-and it wasn't as though the roomwas ever used nowadays. It was a lady's room, this, and therehadn't been a lady ,a,t Enderby for a long while now. A pityMr. Mortimer hadn t married. Always going off to Norwayfor fishing and to Scotland for shooting and to Switzerlandfor those winter sports, instead of marrying some NICE younlady and settling down at home with children running aboutthe house. It was a long time since there had been anych/ldren in the house.And Lanscombe's mind went ranging back to a time thatstood out clearly and distinctly--much more distinctly thanthe last twenty years or so, which were all blurred and confusedand he couldn't really remember who had come ad gone orindeed what they looked like. But he could remember the old days well enough.More like a father to those young brothers and sisters ofhis, Mr. Richard had been. Twenty-four when his father haddied, and he'd pitched in right away to the business, going offevery lay as punctual as clockwork, and keeping the houserunnin and everything as lavish as it could be. A very happyhousehold with all those young ladies and gentlemen rowinup. Fights and quarrels now and again, of course, and thosegovernesses had had a bad time of it I Poor sp/rited creatures,governesses, Lanscombe had always despised them. Verysp/rited the young ladies had been. Miss Geraldine in particular.Miss Cora, too, although she was so much younger.And now Mr. Leo was dead, and Miss Laura gone too. AndMr. Timothy such a sad invalid. And Miss Geraldine dyingsomewhere abroad. And Mr. Gordon killed in the war.Although he was the eldest, Mr. Richard himself turned outthe strongest of the lot. Outlived them all, he had---at leastnot quite because Mr. Timothy was still alive and littleMiss Cora who'd married that unpleasant artist chap. Twenty-fiveyears since he'd seen her and she'd been a pretty younggirl when she went of/with that chap, and now he'd hardlyhave known her, rown so stout--and so arty-crafty in herdress! A Frenchman her husband had been, or nearly aFrenchman--and no good ever came of marrying one of them I But Miss Cora had always been abit--well, simple like you'd call it if she'd lived in a village. Always one of themin a family. "Why, it's Lanscombe I"She'd remembered him all right. she'd said and seemed ever so pleased to see him. Ah, they'dall been fond of him in the old days and when there was adinner party they'd crept down to the pantry and he d gavethem jelly an,d. Charlotte Russe when it came out of the.dining-room.They d all known old Lanscombe, and now there washardly anyone who remembered. Just the younger lot whomhe could never keep clear in his mind and who just thoughtof him as a butler who'd been there a long time. A lot ofstrangers, he had thought, when they all arrived for thefuneral--and a seedy lot of strangers at that INot Mrs. Leo--she was different. She and Mr. Leo hadcome here off and on ever since Mr. Leo married. She wasa nice lady, Mrs. Leo---a rea/lady. Wore proper clothes anddid her hair well and looked what she was. And the masterhad always ben fond of her. A pity that she and Mr. Leohad never had any children ....Lanscombe roused himself; what was he doing standinghere and dreaming about old days with so much to be done ?The blinds were all attended to on the ground floor now, andhe'd told Janet' to go upstairs and do the bedrooms. He andJanet and the cook had gone to the funeral service in thechurch but instead of going on to the Crematorium they'ddriven back to the house to get the blinds up and the lunchready. Cold lunch, of course, it had to be. Ham and chickenand tongue and salad. With cold le,mon souffi and appletart to follow. Hot soup first--and he d better go along andsee that Mariorie had got it on ready to serve, for they'd beback in a minute or two now for certain.Lanscombe broke into a shuffling trot across the room. Hisgaze, abstracted and uncurious, just swept up to the pictureover this mantelpiece--the companion portrait to the one inthe green drawing-room. It was a nice painting of whitesatin and pearls. The human being round whom they weredraped and clasped was not nearly so impressive. Meekfeatures, a rosebud mouth, hair parted in the middle. Awoman both modest and unassuming. The only thing reallyworthy of note about Mrs. Cornelius Abernethie had been hername--Coralie.For over sixty years after their original appearance, CormCornplasters and the allied "Coral" foot preparations still7always been a good devoted wife to Timothy. Looking after his health, fussing over him--fussing overhim a bit too much,probably. Was there really anything the matter withTimothy ? Just a hypochondriac, Mr. Entwhistle suspected.Richard Abernethie had suspected so, too. "Weak chest, ofcourse, when he was a boy," he had said. "But blest ifI think there's much wrong with him now." Oh well, everybodyhad to have some hobby. Timotly's hobby was the allabsorbing one of his own health. Was Mrs. Tim taken in ?Probably not--but women never admitted that sort of thing.Timothy must be quite comfortably off. He'd never beena spendthrift. However, the extra would not come amiss--notin these days of taxation. He'd probably had to retrenchhis scale of living a good deal since the war.Mr. Entwhistle transferred his attention to George Cross-field,Laura's son. Dubious sort of fellow Laura had married.Nobody had ever known much about him. A stockbrokerhe had called himself. Young George was in a solicitor'soffice--not a very reputable firm. Good-looking youngfellow--but something a little shifty about him. He couldn'thave too much to live on. Laura had been a complete foolover her investments. She'd left next to nothing when shedied five years ago. A handsome romantic girl, she'd been,but no money sense.Mr. Entwhistle's eyes went on from George Crossfield.Which of the two girls was which ? Ah yes, that was Rosamund,Geraldine's daughter, looking at the wax flowers onthe malachite table. Pretty girl, beautiful, in fact--rather asilly face. On the stage. Repertory companies or somenonsense like that. Had married an actor, too. Good-lookingfellow. "And knows he is," thought Mr. Entwhistle,who was prejudiced against the stage as a profession. "Wonder what sort of a background he has andwhere he comes from."He looked disapprovingly at Michael Shane with his fairhair and his haggard charm.Now Susan, Gordon's daughter, would do much better onthe stage than Rosamund. More personality. A little toomuch personality for everyday life, perhaps. She was quitenear him and Mr. Entwhistle studied her covertly. Dark hair,hazel--almost golden-eyes, a sulky attractive mouth. Besideher was the husband she had just married--a chemist'sassistant, he understood. Really, a chemist's assistant I InMr. Entwhistle's creed girls did not marry young men whoserved behind a counter. But now of course, they married anybody I The young man, who had a palenondescript face IOir. seemed very ill at ease. Mr. Entwhistleand sand, y ,ha c,-, aoided Eharitably that it was the strmnwonaere ofhis wife's relations.of meeting so many;* cameto Cora Lans-.Last m his Y 'L -- :--qce in that,forCora h,a,dquenet. Therewasa certain.. n afterthought inthe family. Richarddecidedlyb.een a,. ho hermother was justyoungest sister, she tiaaveinv- non fifty, and that meek woman hadnot survived her tenthchildren had diedin infancy). Poor littlepregnancy (ehrrfe, Corahad been rather an embarrassment.Cora I Alld awkv, and given to blurtingoutremarksowing up tallan g .' I1 her eldertat had always better have remained unsaid. Abrothersand sisters had been very kind to Cora, atoningforher deficiencies and covering her social mistakes.It hadd toanyone that Cora would marry. Shenever really occurre -,:- ,i,1 and her ratherobvioushad notbeen a .veryarracu li'usuall" caused the latter'oull men naadvances to ms,ting,Y-- g . +,n r. Entwhistlemused,to retreat in someamrm. ,,, , Me Lansuenetbusiness--Pierre Lansquenet,there had come.th . ? c inan Art schoolhalf French, whom she naa vn,paintingwhere she had been having very correct lessons inflowersin water colours. But somehow she had got intotheLife class and there she had met Pierre Lansquenetand hadcome home and announcedher intention of marr,yi,ghim:RichardAbernethie had put his footdown--he hadn t hkedierreLansouenet and suspected that thewhathesaw ofP,, .owife But whilst hevoun man was r y- .--,- -o,, enet s anteceden.,u.ew researches mtn ,-,o-idwas making a.f ..fed hm out of hunCora had bolted with the fellow and marrst oftheir married life in Brittany andThe had seen} mo. -, ' al hauntsLansquenetCo'rallandotherpainters couventwnhad been a very bad painter and not,by M1 accounts, a verynice man, but Cora had remaineddevoted to him and hadnever forgive.n her f,a.mil.y for the-::ttettuadneatl?;?rcelcaodnhad generouslym Y. -'He doubtedthat theyhad, so Mr. Entwhtstle believed, lived.ii Lansquenet had ever earned anymoney at all. He must.wtwelveyearsormore, thought Mr. Ent-have been de-ad no , ' .- ..a.ath cushion-hke....... re wasnmw,uu,,,.....erwhistle.Andnowedinwisnyartisticblackwithfestoonsofi.nshape,andd.re.ss , ' ;h ofhergirlhood, movin gabo?letbeads,.vacl .m rueIr...recalledsomectxiktmnmemory.ofgriefatherbrothersdeath.Butthen,Mr.Entwhistlereflected,Corahadneverpretended.IIRe-entering the room Lanscombe murmured in muted tonessuitable to the occasion:"Luncleon is served."CHAPTER IIAITER THE delicious chicken soup, and plenty of cold viandsaccompanied by an excellent chablis, the funeral atmospherelightened. Nobody had really felt any deep grief for RichardAbernethie's death since none of them had had any close tieswith him. Their behaviour had been suitably decorous andsubdued (with the exception of the uninhibited Cora who wasclearly enjoying herself) but it was now felt that the decencieshad been observed and that normal conversation could beresumed. Mr. Entwhistle encouraged this attitude. He wasexperienced in funerals and knew exactly how to set correctfuneral timing.After the meal was over, Lanscombe indicated the libraryfor coffee. This was his feeling for niceties. The time hadcome when business in other words, The Will--would bediscussed. The hbrary had the proper atmosphere for thatwith its bookshelves and its heavy red velvet curtains. Heserved coffee to them there and then withdrew, closing the door.After a few desultory remarks, everyone began to looktentatively at Mr. Entwhistle. He responded promptly afterglancing at his watch."I have to catch the 3.30 train," he began.Others, it seemed, also had to catch that train."As you know," said Mr. Entwhistle, "I am the executorof Richard Abernethie's will "He was interrupted."I didn't know," said Cora Lansquenet brightly. "Areyou ? Did he leave me anything ?"Not for the first time, Mr. Entwhistle felt that Cora was tooapt to speak out of turn.Bending a repressive glance at her he continued:"Up to a year ago, Richard Abernethie's will was verysimple. Subject to certain legacies he left everything to hisson Mortimer.""Poor Mortimer," said Cora. "I do think all this infantileparalysis is dreadful.""Mortimer's death, coming so suddenly and tragically, wasa great blow to Richard. It took him some months to rallyfrom it. I pointed out to him that it might be advisable forhim to make new testamentary dispositions."Maude Abernethie asked in her deep voice:"What would have happened if he hadn't made a new will ?Would it--would it all have gone to Timothy--as the next ofkin, I mean ?"Mr. Entwhistle opened his month to give a disquisition onthe subject of next of kin, thought better of it, and saidcrisply:"On my advice, Richard decided to make a new will. Firstof all, however, he decided to get better acquainted with theyounger generation.",, a to " said Susan with a suddenrichFie ,B, ao us up ul pp ,laugh. ' First George and then Greg anct 1,anct menroundand Michael."Gregory, Banks said sharply, his thinface flushing:"I don t think you ought to put it like that,Susan. Onap,p, to,indeed[" ,,' But that was what it was, wasn't it, Mr.Entwhistle ?"Did he leave rne anything ?"repeated Cora.Mr. Entwhistle coughed and spoke rathercoldly '"I propose to send you all copies of the will. Ican readit to you in full now if you like but its legalphraseology maiseem to you rather obscure. Briefly it amounts tothis: Aftercertain mall bequests and a substantiallegacy to Lanscombeto purchase an annuity, the bulk of theestate--a very considerableone--is to be divided into sixequal portions. Fourof these, after all duties are paid, are to goto Richard's brotherTimothy, his nephew George Crossfield, hisniece Susan Banks,and his niece Rosamund Shane. The othertwo portions areto be held upon trust and the income from them paidto Mrs.Helen Abernethie, the widow of his brother Leo; andto hissister vlrs. Cora Lansquenet, duringtheir lifetime. Thecapital after their death to be divided betweenthe other fourbeneficiariesor their issue."That's wr,y, nice!" said CoraLansquenet with realappreciation. An income IHow much ?""1--er--can't say etxctly,,at present.Death duties, ofcoursewill be heavy an"Can't yougive me any idea ?",M,r. Entwhistle realisedthat Cora must be appeased.Possibly somewhere in theneighbourhood of three tofourth,o, usand a year."' Goody I "said Cora. "I shall go toCapri."HelenAbernethiesaidsoftly:x3"How very kind and generous of Richard. I do appreciatehis affection towards me.""He was very fond of you," said Mr. Entwhistle. "Leo was his favourite brother and your visits to himwere alwaysmuch appreciated after Leo died."Helen said regretfully:"I wish I had realised how ill he was--I came up to seehim not long before he died, but although I knew he had beenill, I did not think it was serious.""It was always serious," said Mr. Entwhistle. "But hedid not want it talked about and I do not believe that anybodyexpected the end to come as soon as it did. The doctor wasquite surprised, I know.""'Suddenly, at his residence,' that's what it said in thepaper," said Cora, nodding her head. "I wondered, then.""It was a shock to all of us," said blaude Abernethie. ' Itupset poor Timothy dreadfully. So sudden, he kept saying.So sudden.""Still, it's been hushed up very nicely, hasn't it ?" saidCora.,E, verybody stared at her and she seemed a little fiu, s, tered.I think you're all quite right," she said hurriedly. Quit right. I mean--it can't do any good--makinit public.Very unpleas,a, nt for everybody. It should be lept strictlyin the family.The faces turned towards her looked even more blank.Mr. Entwhistle leaned forward:"Really, Cora, I'm afraid I don't quite understand whatyou mean."Cora Lansquenet looked round at the family in wide-eyed s2 i2 e;nt.Shetilted her head on one side with a birdlike"But he was murdered, wasn't he ?" she said.CHAPTER IIITRaWI.I.IG TO London in the corner of a first-class carriage/lr. Entwhistle gave himself up to somewhat uneasy thoughtover that extraordinary remark made by Cora Lansquenet.Of course Cora was a rather unbalanced and excessively stupidwoman, and she had been noted, even as a girl, for the embarrassingmanner in which she had blurted out unwelcometruths. At least, he didn't mean truths--that was quite thex4wrong word to use. Awkward statements--that was a muchbetter term.In his mind he went back over the immediate sequence tothat unfortunate remark. The combined stare of manystartled and disapproving eyes had roused Cora to a sense ofthe enormity of what she had said.Maude had exclaimed, "Really, Cora I" George had said,"My dear Aunt Cora." Somebody else had said, "What doyou mean ?"And at once Cora Lansquenet, abashed, and convicted ofenormity, had burst into fluttering phrases."Oh I'm sorry--I didn't mean--oh, of course, it was verystupid of me, but I did think from what he saidOh, ofcourse I know it's quite all right, but Iris death was so sudden--please forget that I said anything at all--I didn'tmean to be so stupid--I know I'm always saying the wrongthing."And then the momentary upset had died down and therehad been a practical discussion about the disposition of thelate Richard Abernethie's personal effects. The house and itscontents, Mr. Entwhistle supplemented, would be put up forsale.Cora's unfortunate gaffe had been forgotten. After all,Cora had always been, if not subnormal, at any rate embarrassingly naive. She had never had any ideaof what shouldor should not be said. At nineteen it had not mattered somuch. The mannerisms of an enfant terrible can persist tothen, but an enfant trrible of nearly fifty is decidedly disconcerting.To blurt out unwelcome truths-Mr. Entwhistle's train of thought came to an abrupt check.It was the second time that that disturbing word had occurred. Truths. And why was it so disturbing ?Because, of course,that had always been at the bottom of the embarrassment thatCora's outspoken comments had caused. It was because her ave statements had been either true or hadcontained somegrain of truth that they had been so embarrassing IAlthough in the plump woman of forty-nine, Mr. Entwhistlehad been able to see little resemblance to the gawky girl ofearlier days, certain of Cora's mannerisms had persisted--theslight bird-like twist of the head as she brought out a particularlyoutrageous remark---a kind of air of pleased expectancy.In just such a way had Cora once commented on the figure ofthe kitchen-maid. "Mollie can hardly get near the kitchentable, her stomach sticks out so. It's only been like that thelast month or two. I wonder why she's getting so fat ?"I5Cora had been quickly hushed. The Abernethie householdwas Victorian in tone. The kitchen-maid had disappearedfrom the premises the next day, and after due inquiry thesecond gardener had been ordered to make an honest womanof her and had been presented with a cottage in which to do so.Far-off memories--but they had their point...Mr. Entwhistle examined his uneasiness more closely. Vtmtwas there in Cora's ridiculous remarks that had remained totease his subconscious in this manner ? Presently, he isolatedtwo phrases. "I did think from what he said-- and "hisdeath was so sudden .... "Mr. Entwhistle examined that last remark first. Yes,Richard's death could, in a fashion, be considered sudden.5Ir. Entwhistle had discussed Richard's health both withRichard himself and with his doctor. The latter had indicatedplainly that a long life could not be expected. If Mr. Abernethietook reasonable care of himself he might live two oreven three years. Perhaps longer--but that was unlikely.In any case the doctor had anticipated no collapse in thenear future.Well, the doctor had been wrong--but doctors, as they werethe first to admit themselves, could never be sure about theindividual reaction of a patient to disease. Cases given up,unexpectedly recovered. Patients on the way to recovery,relapsed and died. So much depended on the vitality of thepatient. On his own inner urge to live.And Richard Abernethie, though a strong and vigorousman, had had no great incentive to live.For six months previously his only surviving son, Mortimer,had contracted infantile paralysis and had died within a week./-lis death had been a shock greatly augmented by the factthat he had been such a particularly strong and vital young:nan. A keen sportsman, he was also a good athlete and wasone of those people of whom it was said that he had never hada day's illness in his life. He was on the point of becomingengaged to a very charming girl and his father's hopes for thefuture were centred in this dearly loved and thoroughly satisfactoryson of his.Instead had come tragedy. And besides the sense of personalloss, the future had held little to stir Richard Abernethie'sinterest. One son had died in infancy, the secondwithout issue. He had no grandchildren. There was, in fact,no one of the Abernethie name to come after him, and he wasthe holder of a vast fortune with wide business interestswhich he himself still controlled to a certain extent. Who6wa to succeed to that fortune and to the control of those interests ?That this had worried Richard deeply, Entwhistle knew.Itis only surviving brother was ver., much.of, a, ,invali.d.There remained the younger generation, tt naa oeen m....... :-d the lawver thought, though his friend had notactually said so, to choose one definite successor, thoughminor legacies would probably have beetnmade. Anyway, asEntwhistle knew, within the last six m nths Richard Abernethie had invited to stay with him, in succession, his nephewGeorge, his niece Susan and her husband, his niece Rosamundand her husband, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Leo Abernethie.It was amongst the first three, so the lawyer thought, thatAbernethie had looked for his successor. Helen Abernethie,he thought, had been asked out of personal affection and evenpossibly as someone to consult, for Richard had always helda high opinion of her good sense and practica[ judgment.Mr. Entwhistle also remembered that sometime during thatsix months period Richard had paid a short visit to hisbrother Timothy.The net result had been the will which the lawyer nowcarried in his brief-case. An equable distribution of property.The only conclusion that could be drawn, therefore, was thathe had been disappointed both in his nephew, and in his nieces--or perhaps in his nieces' husbands.As far as Mr. Entwhistle knew, he had not invited his sister,Cora Lansquenet, to visit him--and that brought the lawyerback to that first disturbing phrase that Cora had let slip soincoherently--" but I did think from what he said-----"What had Richard Abernethie said ? And when had hesaid it ? If Cora had not been to Enderby, then RichardAbernethie must have visited her at the artistic village inBerkshire where she had a cottage. Or was it something thatRichard had said in a letter ?Mr. Entwhistle frowned. Cora, of course, was a very stupidwoman. She could easily have misinterpreted a phrase, andtwisted its meaning.But he did wonder what the phrasecould have been ....There was enough uneasiness in him to make him considerthe possibility or'approaching Mrs. Lansquenet on the subject, Not too soon. Better not make it seem ofimportance. Buthe would like to know just what it was that Richard Abernethiehad said to her which had led her to pipe up so briskly withthat outrageous question:"But he was murdered, wasn't h ?'I7In a third-class carriage, farther along the train, GregoryBanks said to his wife:"That aunt of yours must be completely bats I""Aunt Cora ?" Susan was vague. "Oh, yes, I believe shewas always a bit simple or something."George Crossfield, sitting opposite, said sharply:"She really ought to be stopped from going about sayingthings like that. It might put ideas into people's heads."Rosamund Shane, intent on outlining the cupid's bow ofher mouth with lipstick, murmured vaguely:"I don't suppose anyone would pay any attention to whata frump like that says. The most peculiar clothes andlashings and lashings of jet ""Well, I think it ought to be stopped," said George."All right, darling," laughed Rosamund, putting away herli .pstick and contemplating her image with satisfaction in themrror. "You stop it."I-Ier husband said unexpectedly:"I think George is right. It's so easy to set pepte talking.""Well, would it matter ?" Rosamund contemplated the,uestion. The cupid's bow lifted at the corners in a smile.It might really be rather fun."'"Fun ?" Four voices spoke."Having a murder in the family," said Rosamund. "Thrilling, you know I"It occurred to that nervous and unhappy young manGregory Banks that Susan's cousin, setting aside her attractiveexterior, might have some faint points of resemblance to herAunt Cora. Her next words rather confirmed his impression."If he was murdered," said Rosamund, "who do youtlxink did it ?"Her gaze travelled thoughtfully round the carriage."His death has been awfully convenient for all of us," shesaid thoughtfully., "llichael and I are absolutely on ourbeam ends. Mick s had a really good part offered to him inthe Sandborne show if he can afford to wait for it. Now we'llbe in clover. We'll be able to back our own show if we wantto. As a matter of fact there's a play with a simply wonderfulpart. "Nobody listened to Rosamund's ecstatic disquisition. Theirattention had shifted to their own immediate future."Touch and go," thought George to himself. "Now I canx8lp,ut that money back and nobody will ever knowButits been a near shave."Gregoryclosed his eyes as he lay back against the seat. Escapefrom bondage.Susansaid in her clear rather hard voice, "I'm very sorry, ofcourse, for poor old Uncle Richard. But then he was very old,and Mortimer had died, and he'd nothing to live for and itwould have been awful for him to go on as an invalid year afteryear. Much better for him to pop off suddenly like this withno fuss."Herhard confident young eyes softened as they watched herhusband's absorbed face. She adored Greg. She sensed vaguelythat Greg cared for her less than she cared for him--but thatonly strengthened her passion. Greg was hers, she'd do anythingfor him. Anything at all ....3MaudeAbemethie,changing her dress for dinner at Enderby, (for shewas staying the night) wondered if she ought to have offered tostay longer to help Helen out with the sorting and clearing ofthe house. There would be all Richard's personal things... Theremight be letters... All important papers, she supposed,had already been taken possession of by Mr. Entwhistle. Andit really was necessary for her to get back to Timothyas soon as possible. He fretted so when she was not thereto look after him. She hoped he would be pleased about thewill and not annoyed. He had expected, she knew, that mostof Richard's fortune would come to him. After all, he wasthe only surviving Abernethie. Richard could surely have trusted him to look after the youngergeneration. Yes, she wasafraid Timothy would be annoyed .... And that was so badfor his digestion. And really, when he was annoyed, Timothy couldbecome quite unreasonable. There were times when heseemed to lose his sense of proportion... She wondered ifshe ought to speak to Dr. Barton about it... Those sleeping pills--Timothyhad been taking far too many of them lately--he gotso angry when she wanted to keep the bottJ, e for him.But they could be dangerous ,D,r. Barton had said so---you couldget drowsy and forget you d taken them--and then takemore. And then anything might happen I There certainly weren'tas many left in the bottle as there ought to be .. . Timothy was really very naughty about medicines. He wouldnt listen to her... He was very difficult sometimes.x9She sighed--then brightened. Things were going to bemuch easier now. The garden, for instance4Helen Abernethie sat by the fire in the green drawing-roomwaiting for Maude to come down to dinner.She looked round her, remembering old days here with Leoand the others. It had been a happy house. But a house likethis needed people. It needed children and servants and bigmeals and plenty of roaring fires in winter. It had been a sadhouse when it had been lived in by one old man who had losthis son ....Who would buy it, she wondered ? Would it be turned intoan hotel, or an institute, or perhaps one of those hostels foryoung people ? That was what happened to these vast housesnowadays. No one would buy them to live in. It would bepulled down, perhaps, and the whole estate built over. Itmade her sad to think of that, but she pushed the sadness asideresolutely. It did one no good to dwell on the past. Thishouse, and happy days here, and Richard, and Leo, all that wasgood, but it was over. She had her own activities and friendsand interests. Yes, her interests .... And now, with theincome Richard had left her, she would be able to keep onthe villa in Cyprus and do all the things she had planned todo.How worried she had been lately over money--taxation-all t!:ose investments going wrong Now,thanks toRichard'smoney, all that was over ....PoorRichard. To die in his sleep like that had been really agreat mercy .... Suddenly on the 2end--she supposed that thatwas what had put the idea into Cora's head. Really Corawas outrageous I She always had been. Helen rememberedmeeting her once abroad, soon after her marriage to PierreLansquenet. She had been particularly foolish and tatuousthat day, twisting her head sideways and making dogmaticstatements about painting, and particularly about herhusband's painting, which must have been most uncomfortablefor him. No man could like his wife appearing such a fool. AndCora was a fool! Oh, well, poor thing, she couldn't help it,and that husband of hers hadn't treated her too well.Helen's gazerested absentlyon a bouquet of wax flowers that stood on around malachite table. Cora had been sitting 20.. ng to startbeside it when they had all 1a'i'g to. und w;enceS' andfor the church 'She had0t reminis clearly sodelighted recog'iti0ns ef t[s.ad YacPletelyleased at being hck in hat 01[taat she ridable&P-were assev leSSlost sght of th rn for g' :"But perhaB" tought &}'" me washypocrite than tkert of u'" .. .' Cora had neer n from tr 0,',Look at the wa she Ra ..,t mat quesvhe was muraereq, wasn't hew ..o. iOg ,hoseSuch a variety of expr;ssionstst navemind,And suddenly, seeing the }ltl ?} s-xHelen frowned.. Tere eemg upicture ....Something . }'Somebody J:.i,'- >,ace.Was t an exprea0n on s0*?, htmething thath0w could s)egtl['bbeen there... ? .g, tpce it b[ there badShe di't know.,, she co ' ' 'been somethingmewher0,=- wiSpYMeanwhile, in the -.... une etin bath.e had nomourning arm Ieslo0ns oi let&inhng tea and l%kng forgd;euture' . ..premomtions of dister c;?V.- o*certainty MgrYese cross-country iourno<Swod have been easier to get }ck.0 --:.. .a to........ ,,, -, o very mu0'., e would ha tDe way.expense dldn t matter nowtravel th the Iamily-pr;aeykg to ra o. . bnsToo much of an effort...at,,neralmade you feel, Th' mnm at i4t;AC thoseand so was the cold run-- ,u,. hocrtes aav theyfaceswhen looked at she'dher I said thatabot toherWell,ithadbeenh fighttgt y'head in satisfied approval of herself. Yes, it had been thoright thing to do.She glanced up at the clock. Five minutes before her trainwent. She drank up her tea. Not very good tea. Shomade a grimace.For a moment or two she sat dreaming. Dreaming of thofuture unfolding before her Shesmiled like a happychild.Shewas really going to enjoy herself at last... She wentout to the small branch line train busily making plans ....CHAPTERIVIIR. EZTWmSTLE passed a very restless night. He felt sotired and so unwell in the morning that he did not get up.His sister who kept house for him, brought up his breakfaston a tray and explained to him severely how wrong he hadbeen to go gadding off to the North of England at his ageand in his frail state of health.Mr. Entwhistle contented himself with saying that RichardAbernethie had been a very old friend."Funerals!" said his sister with deep disapproval. "Funerals are absolutely fatal for a man of your age IYou'llbe taken off as suddenly as your precious Mr. Abernethie wasif you don't take more care of yourself."The word "suddenly" made Mr. Entwhistle wince. Italso silenced him. He did not argue.He was well aware of what had made him flinch at theword suddenly.Cora Lansquenet I What she had suggested was definitelyquite impossible, but all the same he would like to find outexactly why she had suggested it. Yes, he would go down toLytchett St. Mary and see her. He could pretend that it wasbusiness connected with probate, that he needed her signature.No need to let her guess that he had paid any attention toher silly remark. But he would go down and see her--andhe would do it soon.He finished his breakfast and lay back on his pillows andread The Times. He found The Times very soothing.It was about a quarter to six that evening when his telephonerang.He picked it up. The voice at the other end of the wire22was that of Mr. James Parrott, the present second partner ofBollard, Entwkistle, Entwhistle and Bollard."Look here, Entwhistle," said Mr. Parrott, "I've justbeen rung up by the police from a place called Lytchett St.Mary.""Lytchett St. Mary I,""Yes. It seems Mr. Parrott paused a moment. Hoseemed embarrassed. "It's about a Mrs. Cora Lansquenet.Wasn't she one of the heirs of the Aberuethie estate ?""Yes, of course. I saw her at the funeral yesterday.""Oh ? She was at the funeral, was she ?""Yes. What about her ?""Well," Mr. Parrot sounded apologetic. "She's---it'sreally most extraordinary--she's been well--murdered."Mr. Parrott said the last word with the uttermost deprecation.It was not the sort of word, he suggested, that ought tomean anything to the firm of Bollard, Entwhistle, Entwhistleand Bollard."Murdered ?""Yes--yes--I'm afraid so. Well, I mean, there's no doubt about it.""How did the police get on to us ?""Her companion, or housekeeper, or whatever she is--aMiss Gilchrist. The police asked for the name of her nearestrelative or of her solicitors. And this Miss Gilchrist seemedrather doubtful about relatives and their addresses, but sheknew about us. So they got through at once.""What makes them think she was murdered ? "demandedMr. Entwhistle.Mr. Parrott sounded apologetic again."Oh well, it seems there can't be any doubt about that--I mean it was a hatchet or something of thatkind--a veryviolent sort of crime.""Robbery ?""That's the idea. A window was smashed and there aresome trinkets missing and drawers pulled out and all that,but the police seem to think there might be something--well--phonyabout it.""What time did it happen ?""Sometime between two and four-thirty this afternoon.""Where was the housekeeper ?""Changing library books in Reading. She got back aboutfive o'clock and found Mrs. Lansquenet dead. The policewant to know if we've any idea of who could have beenlikely to attack her. I said," Mr. Parrott's voice sounded23 agoOqv sno?!dsns Xu, aot 'osanoo to 'no gaoi ue s,oaoqz o.oq Ono uan H!q XIqqoad s,eq 'sox 'so go ,, gno pouod oq ,,'saop .anaiosuas oq pu iq osaq to eaq soop auO ,,aqo s uISOUn poqs oisqu,,'pos oqs uoq Xiintowod udooIs opsa UutXI s oqs qoqs o soos 2utq{oM 'pp,,uotiq2 pooqs oqs ti ,, 'poso22ns ois!qu a ,,' q! aoq uooaq o ]uo oaq $sn X oH ,,,o'P!Snoat mq q dn uo Xioaoqtiop 'oq VD oq Xseo Ino o ao 'soaqo suborn Xq pouo'q,t uo okq pino oH 'u ooaq um sq uoqKoaIou 'Ksoap uooq oaq p,oq 'sooq Kaaq!I omoso'uq0 o snq oq Kq u!poM o3usoiss!uos uoqoS 'Sd udoois o o o pop?op pu ao33oq ou io'o'3unI II aoq qan3sp o 3ou saqiD ss pio uoq pupO aq aot odop oos oo puoo sdno iaoaos p oqs ooPoq oiqaao q] oo pu fIpq Koa dois oqs ,,,,'SO ,,,, pusaopun I s KooIoos u ooo p,oqs 'poxo Kaoa pu posnqxo 'oaotoqu 0 qoX oqoat of poumo oqs smoos I 'sox ,,,, poq oqs ,,,,'o saoio pu ' utsdqod qao--souot dn sdooos 'saooto d aopu oq uoqA 'o inaq osnb 'so 'TO ,,poqotg oisqu'a,,'onas oao soiq q? ao Spu uoqo oq soqsms 'poqspoo oq Xq ui qoq oq so XioaoqIop uoq ouooos sir& 'dos snq off pu oH!a oq ouo o puooio,o onoq osnoqo tno omoo uosoH9 oq poqo ouooos OlSSquMp} .'oosuI 'no pusaopun osnb I q,uop I ,,.ooad q ao, ='''t, . q' q to qou m,I ,, ''to aoqa pois aooodsuI'poa . aopm aq oIO s oq uosa toaas omos oq ooaoq aot mosno si ,,Nobody local is concerned, we're pretty sure of that. Thelocals are all accounted for satisfactorily. Most people are atwork at that time of day. Of course her cottage is up a laneoutside the village proper., Anyone could get there easilywithout being seen. There s a maze of lanes all round thevillage. It was a fine morning and there has been no rain forsome days, so there aren't any distinctive car tracks to goby--in case anyone came by car.""You think someone came by car ?" Mr. Entwhistle askedsharply.The Inspector shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know.All I'm saying is there are curious features about the case.These, for instance--" He shoved across his desk a handfulof things--a trefoil-shaped brooch with small pearls, a broochset with amethysts, a small string of seed pearls, and a garnetbracelet."Those are the things that were taken from her jewel box.They were found just outside the house shoved into a bush.""Yes--yes, that is rather curious. Perhaps if her assailantwas frightened at what he had done--""Quite. But he would probably then have left themupstairs in her room Ofcourse a panic may have comeoverhim between the bedroom and the front gate."Mr.Entwhistle said quietly:"Orthey may, as you are suggesting, have only been taken asa blind.""Yes, severalpossibilities... Of course this Gilchrist woman mayhave done it. Two women living alone together --you neverknow what quarrels or resentments or passions rny have been aroused. Oh yes, we're taking that possibilityinto consideration as well. But it doesn't seem very likely.From all accounts they were on quite amicable terhs." Hepaused before going on. "According to you, nobody standsto gain by Mrs. Lansquenet's death ?"The lawyer shifted uneasily."I didn't quite say that."Inspector Morton looked up sharply."I thought you said that Mrs. Lansquenet's source ofincome was an allowance made to her by her brother andthat as far as you knew she had no property or means of herown.""That is so. Her husband died a bankrupt,and from whatI knew of her as a girl and since, I should be surprised if shehad ever saved or accumulated any money.""The cottage itself is rented, not her own, and the few26sticks of furniture aren't anything to write home about, evenin these days. Some spurious ' cottage oak ' and some artypainted stuff. Whoever she's left them to won't am much2--if she's made a will, that is to say."3rff. Entwhistle shook his head."I know nothing about her will. I had not seen her formany years, you must understand.""Then what exactly did you mean just now ? You hadsomething in mind, I think ?""Yes. Yes, I did. I wished to be strictly accurate." "Were you referring to the legacy you mentioned ?Theone that her brother left her ? Had she the power to disposeof that by will ?""No, not in the sense you mean. She had no power todispose of the capital. Now that she is dead, it will be dividedamongst the five other beneficiaries of Richard Abernethie'swill. That is what I meant. All five of them will benefitautomatically by her death."The Inspector looked disappointed."Oh, I thought we were on to something. Well, therecertainly seems no motive there for anyone to come and swipeher with a hatchet. Looks as though it's some chap with ascrew loose--one of these adolescent criminals, perhaps--a lotof them about. And then he lost his nerve and bushed thetrinkets and ran... Yes, it must be that. Unless it's thehighly respectable Miss Gilchrist, and I must say that seemsunlikely.""When did she find the body ?""Not until just about five o'clock. She came back fromReading by the 4.50 bus. She arrived back at the cottage, letherself in by the front door, and went into the kitchen andput the kettle on for tea. There was no sound from Mrs.Lansquenet's room, but Miss Gilchrist assumed that she wasstill sleeping. Then Miss Gilchrist noticed the kitchen window;the glass was all over the floor. Even then, she thought atfirst it might have been done by a boy with a ball or a catapult.She went upstairs and peeped very gently into Mrs. Lansquenet'sroom to see if she were asleep or if she was ready forsome tea. Then of course, she let loose, shrieked, and rusheddown the lane to the nearest neighbour. Her story seemsperfectly consistent and there was no trace of blood in herroom or in the bathroom, or on her clothes. No, I don't thinkMiss Gilchrist had anything to do with it. The doctor got thereat half-past five. He puts the time of death not later than four-thirty--andprobably much nearer two o'clock, so it looks as27though whoever it was, was hanging round waiting for MissGilchrist to lea, ye the cottage..face twitched slightly Inspector MortonThe la er s.. ....went on: 'W}tYou'll be going to see Miss Gflchnst, I suppose ?"I thought of doing so.""I should be glad if you would. She's told us, I think,everything that she can, but you never know. Some,times, inconversation, some point or other may crop up. She s a trifleold-maidish--but quite a sensible, practical woman--and she'sreally been most helpful and efficient."He paused and then said:"The body's at the mortuary. If you would like to seeit. "Mr. Entwhistle assented, though with no enthusiasm.Some few minutes later he stood looking down at the mortalremains of Cora Lansquenet. She had been savagely attackedand the henna dyed fringe was clotted and stiffened withblood. Mr. Entwhistle's lips tightened and he looked awayqueasily.Poor little Cora. How eager she had been the day beforeyesterday to know whether her brother had left her anything.What rosy anticipations she must have had of the future.What a lot of silly things she could have done--and enjoyeddoing--with the money.Poor Cora How short a time those anticipations hadlasted.Noone had gained by her death--not even the brutal assailantwho had thrust away those trinkets as he fled. Five peoplehad a few thousands more of capital--but the capital theyhad already received was probably more than sufficient forthem. No, there could be no motive there.Funnythat murder should have been running in Cora's mindthe very day before sh, e hers,elf was murdered."Hewas murdered, wash t he ?Sucha ridiculous thing to say. Ridiculous! Quite ridiculousI Much too ridiculous to mention to Inspector Morton. Ofcourse, after he had seen Miss Gilchrist.. Supposingthat Miss Gilchrist, although it was unlikely, couldthrow any light on what Richard had said to Cora."Ithought from what he said--" What had Richard said?"I must see Miss Gilchrist at once," said Mr. Entwhistle tohimself.Miss Gilchrist was a spare faded-looking woman with short,iron-grey hair. She had one of those indeterminate faces thatwomen around fifty so often acquire.She greeted Mr. Entwhistle warmly."I'm so glad you have come, Mr. Entwhistle. I reallyknow so little about Mrs. Lansquenet's family, and of courseI've never, never had anything to do with a murder before.It's too dreadful I"Mr. Entwhistle felt quite sure that Miss Gilchrist had neverbefore had anything to do with murder. Indeed, her reactionto it was very much that of his partner."One reads about them, of course," said Miss Gilchrist,relegating crimes to their proper sphere." And even that I'mnot very fond of doing. So sordid, most of them."Following her into the sitting-room Mr. Entwhistle waslooking sharply about him. There was a strong smell of oilpaint. The cottage was overcrowded, less by furniture, whichwas much as Inspector Morton had described it, than by pictures.The walls were covered with pictures, mostly very darkand dirty oil paintings. But there were water-colour sketchesas well, and one or two still lifes. Smaller pictures werestacked on the window-seat."Mrs. Lansquenet used to buy them at sales," Miss Gilchristexplained. "It was a great interest to her, poor dear. Shewent to all the sales round about. Pictures go so cheap,nowadays, a mere song. She never paid more than a poundfor any of them, sometimes only a few shillings, and therewas a wonderful chance, she always said, of picking up somethingworth while. She used to say that this was an ItalianPrimitive that might be worth a lot of money."Mr. Entwhistle looked at the Italian Primitive pointed outto him dubiously. Cora, he reflected, had never really knownanything about pictures. He'd eat his hat if any of thesedaubs were worth a five pound note I"Of course," said Miss Gilchrist, noticing his expression,and quick to sense his reaction. "I don't know much myself,though my father was a painter--not a very successful one,I'm afraid. But I used to do water-colours myself as a girland I heard a lot of talk about painting and that made it nicefor Mrs. Lansquenet to have someone she could talk to aboutpainting and who'd understand. Poor dear soul, she cared somuch about artistic things."29"You were fond of her ?"A foolish question, he told himself. Could she possiblyanswer" no" ? Cora, he thought, must have been a tiresomewoman to live with."Oh yes," said Miss Gilchrist. "We get on vry welltogether. In some ways, you know, Mrs. Lansquenet was justlike a child. She said anything that came into her he,ad.I don't know that her judgment was always very good--One does not say of the dead---" She was a thoroughly sillywoman "--Mr. Entwhistle said, "She was not in any sensean intellectual woman.""No--no---perhaps not. But she was very shrewd, Mr.Entwhistle. Really very shrewd. It quite surprised mesometimes--how she managed to hit the nail on the head."Mr. Entwhistle looked at Miss Gilchrist with more interest.I-Ie thought that she was no fool herself."You were with Mrs. Lansquenet for some years, I think?""Three and a half:""You---er--acted as companion and also did the--er--well--looked after the house ?"It was evident that he had touched on a delicate subject.Miss Gilchrist flushed a little."Oh yes, indeed. I did most of the cooking--I quite enjoycooking--and did some dusting and light housework. Noneof the rough, of course." Miss Gilchrist's tone expressed a firmprinciple. Mr. Entwhistle who had no idea what" the rough"was, made a soothing murmur."Mrs. Panter from the village came in for that. Twicea week regularly. You see, Mr. Entwhistle, I could not havecontemplated being in any way a servant. When my littletea-shop failed--such a disaster--it was the war, you know.A delightful place. I called it the Willow Tree and all thechina was blue willow pattern--sweetly pretty--and thecakes really good---I've always had a hand with cakes andscones. Yes I was doing really well and then the war came andsupplies were cut down and the whole thing went bankrupt--a war casualty, that is what I always say, and I try tothink of it like that. I lost the little money my father leftme that I had invested in it, and of course I had to look roundfor something to do. I'd never been trained for anything.So I went to one lady but it didn't answer at all--she was sorude and overbearing--and then I did some office work--butI didn't like that at all, and then I came to Mrs. Lansquenetand we suited each other from the start--her husband beingan artist and everything." Miss Gilchrist came to a breathless30stop and added mournfully: "But how I loved my dear, dearlittle tea-shop. Such nice people used to come to it I"Looking at Miss Gilchrist, Mr. Entwhistle felt a suddenstab of recoguition--a composite picture of hundreds of ladylikefigures approaching him in numerous Bay Trees, GingerCats, Blue Parrots, Willow Trees and Cosy Corners, allchastely encased in blue or pink or orange overalls and takingorders for pots of china tea and cakes. Miss Gilchrist had aSpiritual Home--a lady-like tea-shop of Ye Olde Worldevariety with a suitable genteel clientele. There must, hethought, be large numbers of Miss Gilchrists all over thecountry, all looking much alike with mild patient faces andobstinate upper lips and slightly wispy grey hair.Miss Gilchrist went on:"But really I must not talk about myself. The police havebeen very kind and considerate. Very kind indeed. AnInspector Morton came over from headquarters and he was most understanding. He even arranged forme to go andspend the night at Mrs. Lake's down the lane but I said ' No.'I felt it my duty to stay here with all Mrs. Lansquenet's nicethings in the house. They took the--the "Miss Gilchristgulped a little--" the body away, of course, and locked upthe room, and the Inspector told me there would be a constableon duty in the kitchen all night--because of the brokenwindow--it has been reglazed this morning, I am glad to say--where was I ? Oh yes, so I said I should be quite all rightin my own room, though I must confess I did pull the chest ofdrawers across the door and put a big jug of water on thewindow-sill. One never knows--and if by any chance it was a maniac--one does hear of such things.."Here Miss Gilchrist ran down. Mr. Entwhistle said quickly: "I am in possession of all the main facts.InspectorMorton gave them to me. But if it would not distress you toomuch to give me your own account ?""Of course, Mr. Entwhistle. I know just what you feel.The police are so impersonal, are they not ? Rightly so, ofcourse.""Mrs. Lansquenet got back from the funeral the night beforelast," Mr. Entwhistle prompted."Yes, her train didn't get in until quite late. I had ordereda taxi to meet it as she told me to. She was very tired, poordear--as was only natural--but on the whole she was in quitegood spirits.""Yes, yes. Did she talk about the funeral at all ?" "Just a little. I gave her a cup of hot milk--she didn'twant anything else--and she told me that the church had been sUite full and lots and-lots of flowers--oh!and she said thate was sorry not to have seen her other brother--Timothy-was it ?""Yes, Timothy.""She said it was over twenty years s/nce she had seen himand that she hoped he would have been there, but she quiterealised he would have thought it better not to come underthe circumstances, but that his wife was there and that she'dnever been able to stand Maude--oh dear, I do beg your pardon,Mr,;Entwhistle--it just s,hpped out--I never meant "Not at all. Not at all, said Mr. Entwhistle encouragingly."I am no relation, you know. And I believe that Cora andher sister-in-law never hit it off very well.""Well, she almost said as much. ' I always knew Maudewould grow into one of those bossy interfering women,' iswhat she said. And then she was very tired and said she'dgo to bed at once--I'd got her hot-water bottle in all ready--andshe went up.""She said nothing else that you can remember specially?""She had no premonition, Mr. Entwhistle, if that is what you mean. I'm sure of that. She was really, youknow, inremarkably good spirits--apart from tiredness and the--thesad occasion. She asked me how I'd like to go to Capri. ToCapri! Of course I said it would be too wonderful--it's athing I'd never dreamed I'd ever do---and she said, 'We'llgo I ' Just like that. I gathered--of course it wasn't actually mentioned that her brother had left her anannuity or somethingof the kind."Mr. Entwhistle nodded."Poor dear. Well, I'm glad she had the pleasure of plan-ning-atall events." Miss Gilchrist sighed and murmuredwistfully, "I don't suppose I shall ever go to Capri now...""And the next morning ?" Mr. Entwhistle prompted,oblivious of Miss Gilchrist's disappointments."The next morning Mrs. Lansquenet wasn't at all well.Really, she looked dreadful. She'd hardly slept at all, shetold me. Nightmares. 'It's because you were overtiredyesterday,' I told her, and she said maybe it was. She hadher breakfast in bed, and she didn't get up all the morning,but at lunch-time she told me that she still hadn't been ableto sleep. ' I feel so restless,' she said. ' I keep thinking ofthings and wondering.' And then she said she'd take somesleeping tablets and try and get a good sleep in the afternoon.And she wanted me to go over by bus to Reading and change32her two library books, because she'd finished them both on.train, journ.ey and she hadn't t, of an,,hin *,, t,eo,,$,-, u. LSUaytwo oooks lasted her nearlya week. So I went off just aftertwoand that--and that--was the lasttime"MissGilchriat began to sniff,,o.>itc must nave PeenI.know.She wouldn't ha,,-- ast.eep. you-cmuannm aria tileassures me that she didn'+,--^- yc, n, .g, Inspectoro,cte mnKs the lirst blowkilled her. Oh dear,it makes me quite sick even to tinkof it I""Please, please. I've no wish to take youany furtherover what happened. All I wanted was tohear what ,you couldted me about Mrs. Lansquenet before thetragedy;""Very natural, I'msure. Do tell her relations that apartfrom hav/ngsuch a bad night,she was reaJly very happy andlookinforward to the future.Mr. ntwhistle paused beforeasking his next question. Hewanted to be carefulnot to lead the witness."She did not mention any ofher relationsin particular ?"No, no, I don't think so." Miss Gilchristconsidered."Except what shesaidaboutbeing sorry not tosee herbrother Timothy."T' She did nospeak a.t all .about her brother's deceasee--er---cause of it?"No."Anything like that?"There was no sign of alertness /n Miss Gilchr/st's face.Mr. Entwhistle felt certain there would have been if Cora hadplumpedout her verdict ofmurder."He'd been ili forsome time, I think,"said Miss G/Ichr/stvaguely, "though I mus,t say I was surpr/sedto hear it. Helookedso very v/gorous.'Mr. Entwhstle said quickl You saw htmwhen ?""When he came down here to seeMrs. Lansquenet. Let mesee--that was about three weeksago.""Did he stayhere?""Oh--no--just came forluncheon. It was quite a surprise.Mrs.Lansquenet hadn't expected him. I gatherthere hadbeen some family ,disagreement Shehadn't seen him foryears, she told me.' '"Yes, that is so.""It quite upset herseeing himagain andprobablyrealisinghowillhewas ""She knewthathewasill?""Oh yes,Irememberquitewell.BecauseIwonderedonlyinmyownmind,youunderstand /fperhapsMr.a.r. . 33Abernethie might be suffering from softening of the brain An aunt of mine"Mr. Entwhistle deftly side-tracked the aunt."Something Mrs, Lansquenet said caused you to think ofsoftening of the brain "" s Mrs Lansquenet said something like '- Poor R, icha[..d^.,Y;es2, deth must have aged him a lot. Me souncts qmtesenile. All these fancies about persecution and that someoneis poisoning him. Old people get like that.' And of course,as I knew, that is only too true. This aunt that I was tel!lngyou about--was convinced the servants were trying to pmsonher in her food and at last would eat only boiled egg. s--because,she said, you couldn't get inside a boiled egg to pmson,it. Wehumoured her, but if it had been nowadays I don t know what we should have done. With eggs soscarce and mostlyforeign at that, so that boiling is always risky." . . . ,Mr. Entwhistle listened to the saga of Miss Glchnst saunt with deaf ears. He was very much disturbed.He said at last, when Miss Gilchrist had twittered intosilence:"I suppose Mrs. Lansquenet didn't take all this too seriou,s,l, xl Entwhislte, she qmtunders.to, od.,Mi.''vh"'tle found that remark disturt)mg too, thoughnot quite in the sense in which Miss Gilchrist had used it.Had Cora Lansquenet understood ? Not then, perhaps, butlater. Had she understood only too well ?Mr. Entwhistle knew that there had been no senility aboutRichard Abernethie. Richard had been in full possession .ofhis faculties. He was not the man to have persecution mamain any form. He was, as he always had been, a hardheadedbusiness man--and his illness made no difference in thatrespect.It seemed extraordinary that he should have spoken to his . in the terms that he had. But perhaps Cora, with hersister-d read between the lines,and hadodd chllOUKe snrewun crossed the t's 'and dotted the i's ofwhat Richard Abernethiehad actually said.In most ways, thought Mr. Entwhistle, Corahad been acomplete fool. She had no judgment, no balance,nd a crudechildish point of view, but she had alsothe child s uncannyknack of sometimes hitting the nail on the head ina way thatseemed quite startling.Mr. Entwhistle left it at that. MissGilchrist, he thought,knew no more than she had told him. Heaskedwhethershe34knew if Cora Lansquenet had left a will. Miss Gilchrist repliedpromptly that Mrs. Lansquenet's wilt was at the Bank.With that and after making certain further arrangementshe took his leave. He insisted on Miss Gilchrist's accepting asmall sum in cash to defray present expenses and told her hewould communicate with her again, and in the meantime hewould be grateful if she would stay on at the cottage whileshe was looking about for a new post. That would be, MissGilchrist said, a great convenience and really she was not atall nervous.He was unable to escape without being shown round thecottage by Miss Gilchrist, and introduced to various picturesby the late Pierre Lansquenet which were crowded into thesmall dining-room and which made Mr. Entwhistle flinch--theywere mostly nudes executed with a singular lack ofdraughtsmanship but with much fidelity to detail. He wasalso made to admire various small oil sketches of picturesquefishing ports done by Cora herself."Polperro," said Miss Gilchrist proudly. "We were therelast year and Mrs. Lansquenet was delighted with its picturesqueness.''Mr. Entwhistle, viewing Polperro from the southwest,from the north-west, and presumably from the several otherpoints of the compass, agreed that Mrs. Lansquenet hadcertainly been enthusiastic."Mrs. Lansquenet promised to leave me her sketches,"said Miss Gilchrist wistfully. "I admired them so much. Onecan really see the waves breaking in this one, can't one ?Even if she forgot, I might perhaps have just one as a souvenir,do you think ?""I'm sure that could be arranged," said Mr. Entwhistlegraciously.He made a few further arrangements and then left tointerview the Bank Manager and to have a further consultationwith Inspector Morton.CHAPTER V"WORN OU?, that's what you are," said Miss Entwhistle inthe indignant and bullying tones adopted by devoted sisterstowards brothers for whom they keep house. "You shouldn'tdo it, at your age. What's it all got to do with you, I'd liketo know ? You've retired, haven't you ?"35Mr. Entwhistle said mildly that Richard Abernethie hadbeen one of his oldest friends."I dare say. But Richard Abernethie's dead, isn't he ?So I see no reason for you to go mixing yourself up in thingsthat are no concern of yours and catching you-* death of coldin these nasty draughty railway trains. And murder, too[I can't see why they sent for you at all.""They communicated with me because there was a letterin the cottage signed by me, telling Cora the arrangements forthe funeral.""Funerals! One funeral after another, and that remindsme. Another of these precious Abernethies has been ringingyou up--Timothy, ,I think he said. From somewhere in Yorkshire--and that s about a funeral, too! Saidhe'd ringagain later."A personal call for Mr. Entwhistle came tbxough thatevening. Taking it, he heard Maude Abernethie's voice at theother end."Thank goodness I've got hold of you at last I Timothyhas been in the most terrible state. This news about Corahas upset him dreadfully.""Quite understandable," said Mr. Entwhistle."What did you say ?""I said it was q,uite understandable.""I suppose so. Maude sounded more than doubtful."Do you mean to say it was really murder ?"(" It was mrdr, tasn't it ?" Cora had said. But this timethere was no hesitation about the answer.)"Yes, it was murder," said Mr. Entwhistle. "And with a hatchet, so the papers say ?" "Yes.""It seems quitincredible to me," said Maude, "that Timothy's sistermhis own sister--can have beenmurderedwith a hatchzt I"It seemed no less incredible to Mr. Entwhistle. Timothy'slife was so remote from violence that even his relations, onefelt, ought to be equally exempt."I'm afraid one has to face the fact," said Mr. Entwhistlemildly."I am really very worried about Timothy. It's so bad forhim all this I I've got him to bed now but he insists on mypersuading you to come up and see him. He wants to knowa hundred things--whether there will be an inquest, and whoought to attend, and how soon after that the funeral can takeplace, and where, and what funds there are, and if Cora36expressed any wis,h? about being cremated or what, and ifshe le/t a willMr. Entwhistle /nterrupted before the catalogue got toolong."There is a will, yes. She left Timoth her executor.""Oh d,,ear, I'm afraid Timothy can t undertake anything.."The firm will attend to all the necessary business. Thewill's very simple. She left her own sketches and an amethystbrooch to her companion, Miss Gilchrist, and everything elseto Susan.""To Susan ? Now I wonder why Susan ? I don't believeshe ever saw Susan--not since she was a baby anyway.""I imagine that it was because Susan was reported to havemade a marriage not wholly pleasing to the family."lVlaude snorted."Even Gregory is a great deal better than Pierre Lansquenet ever was I Of course marrying a man who serves i,na shop would have been unheard of in my day,--but a chemist sshop is much better than a haberdasher s--and at leastGregory seems quite respectable." She paused and added:"Does this mean that Susan gets the income Richard left toCora ?""Oh no. The capital of that will be divided according tothe instructions of Richard's will. No, poor Cora had onlya few hundred pounds and the furniture of her cottage toleave. When outstanding debts are paid and the furnituresold I doubt if the whole thing will amount to more than atmost five hundred pounds." He went on: "There will haveto be an inquest, of course. That is fixed for next Thursday.If Timothy is agreeable, we'll send down you,n,g Lloyd towatch the proceedings on behalf of the family. He addedapo. logetically: "I'm afraid it may attract some notorietyowing to the---er--circumstances.""How ve,r unpleasant IHave they caught the wretchwho did it ?"Not yet.""One of these dreadful half-baked young men who goabout the country roving and murdering, I suppose. Thepolice are so incompetent.""No, no," said Ivlr. Entwhistle. "The police are by nomeans incompetent. Don't imagine that, for a moment.""Well, it all seems to me quite extraordinary. And so bad for Timothy. I suppose you couldn't possiblycomedown here, Mr. Entwhistle ? I should be most grateful if you37could. I think Timothy's mind might be set at rest if you werehere to reassure him."Mr. Entwhistle was silent for a moment. The invitationwas not unwelcome."There is something in what you say," he admitted. "And's signature as executor to cer, t, amI shall need Tmothydocuments. Yes, I think it might be quite a good thing. '"That is splendid. I am so relieved. To-morrow ? Andyou'll stay the night ? The best train is the IL20 fromSt. Pancras.""It will have to be an afternoon train, I'm afraid. I have,"sai d Mr. Entwhistle," other business in the morning "GeorgeCrossfield greeted Mr. Entwhistle heartily but with,perhaps,just a shade of surprise.llr. Entwhistle said, in an explanatory way, althoughitreally explainednothing:"I've just come up from Lytchett St.llary.""Then it really was Aunt Cora ? I read aboutit in thepapers and I just couldn't believe it. Ithought it must besomeoneof the same name.""Lansquenet isnot a common name.""No, of course it isn't. I supposethere.is a natural aversionto believing that anyone of one's ownfamily can be murdered.Sounds to me rather like that caselast month onDartmoor.""Does it ?""Yes. Same circumstances. Cottagein a lonely position.Two elderly women living together.Amount of cash takenrea!ly quite pitifully inadequateone would t,h, ink."' The value ofmoney is alwaysrelative, said lr. Entwhistle. "It is the need that counts.""Yes--yes, I suppose you re right."If you needten pounds desperately--then fifteen is more than adequate. And inversely also.If your need is for a hundred r)ounds,fortv-five would be worse than useless. And if it's thoasands you heed, then hundreds are not enough."George saidwith a sudden flicker of the eyes: "I'd say any moneycame in useful these days. Everyone's hard up."" But not desperate,"Mr. Entwhistle pointed out. "It's the desperation thatcounts.""Are you thinking of something in particular ?""Oh no, notat all." Hepausedthenwenton: "It will38be a little time before the estate is settled; would it beconvenient for you to have an advance ?""As a matter of fact, I was going to raise the subject.However, I saw the Bank this morning and referred them toyou and they were quite obliging about an overdraft."Again there came that flicker in George's eyes, and Mr.Entwhistle, from the depths of his experience, recognised it.George, he felt certain, had been, if not desperate, then invery sore straits for money. He knew at that moment, whathe had felt subconsciously all along, that in money mattershe would not trust George. He wondered if old RichardAbernethie, who also had had great experience in judgingmen, had felt that. Mr. Entwhistle was almost sure thatafter Mortimer's death, Richard Abernethie had formed theintention of making George his heir. George was not anAbernethie, but he was the only male of the younger generation. He was the natural successor to Mortimer. RichardAbernethie had sent for George, had had him staying in thehouse for some days. It seemed probable that at the end ofthe visit the older man had not found George satisfactory.Had he felt instinctively, as Mr. Entwhistle felt, that Georgewas not straight ? George's father, so the family had thought,had been a poor choice on Laura's part. A stockbroker whohad had other rather mysterious activities. George took afterhis father rather than after the Abernethies.Perhaps misinterpreting the old lawyer's silence, Georgesaid with an uneasy laugh:"Truth is, I've not been very lucky with my investmentslately. I took a bit of a risk and it didn't come off. Moreor less cleaned me out. But I'li be able to recoup myself now.All one needs is a bit of capital.Ardens Consolidated arepretty good, don't you think ?"Mr. Entwhistle neither agreed nor dissented. He waswondering if by any chance George had been speculating withmoney that belonged to clients and not with his own ?IfGeorge had been in danger of criminal prosecutionMr. Entwhistle said precisely:"I tried to reach you the day after the funeral, but Isuppose you weren't in the office.""Did you ? They never told me. As a matter of fact,I thought I was entitled to a day off after the good news I" "The good news ?"George reddened."Oh look here, I didn't mean Uncle Richard's death. Butknowing you've come into money does give one a bit of a39kick. One feels one must celebrate. As a matter of fact I wentto Hurst Park. Backed two winners. It never rains but itpours I If your luck's in, it's in I Only a matter of fifty quid,but it all helps.""Oh yes," said Mr. Entwhistle. "It all helps. And therewill now be an additional sum coming to you as a result ofyour Aunt Cora's death."George looked concerned."Poor old girl," he said. "It does seem rotten luck,doesn't it ? Probably just when she was all set to enjoyherself.""Let us hope the police will find the person responsible forher death," said Mr. Entwhistle."I expect they'll get him all right. They're good, ourpolice. They round up all the undesirables in the neighbourhoodand go through 'em with a tooth comb--make themaccount for their actions at the time it happened.""Not so easy if a little time has elapsed," said Mr. Ent-whistle.He gave a wintry little smile that indicated hewas about to make a joke.- "I myself was in Hatchard'sbookshop at 3.3o on the day in question. Should I rememberthat if I were questioned by the police in ten days' time ?I very much doubt it. And you, George, you were at HurstPark. Would you remember which day you went to theraces in--say--a month's time ?""Oh I could fix it by the funeral--the day after." "True--true. And then you backed a couple of winners.Another aid to memory. One seldom forgets the name of ahorse on which one has won money. Which were they, bythe way ?""Let me see. Gaymarck and Frogg II. Yes, I shan'tforget them in a hurry."Mr. Entwhistle gave his dry little cackle of laughter andtook his leave.3"It's lovely to see you, of course," said Rosamund withoutany marked enthusiasm."But it's frightfully early in themorning."She yawned heavily."It's eleven o'clock," said Mr. Entwhistle.Rosamund yawned again. She said apologetically:"We had the hell of a party last night. Far too much todrink. Michael's got a terrible hangover still."4oMichael appeared at this moment, also yaming. He hada cup of black coffee in his hand and was wearing a very smartdressing-gown. He looked haggard and attractive--and his.smile had the usual charm. Rosamund was wearing a blackskirt, a rather dirty yellow pullover, and nothing else as far asMr. Entwhistle could judge.The precise and fastidious lawyer did not approve at allof the young Shanes' way of living. The rather ramshackleflat on the first floor of a Chelsea house--the bottles andglasses and cigarette ends that lay about in profusion--thestale air, and the general air of dust and dishevelment.In the midst of this discouraging setting Rosamund andMichael bloomed with their wonderful good looks. They werecertainly a very handsome couple and they seemed, Mr.Entwhistle thought, very fond of each other. Rosamund wascertainly adoringly fond of Michael."Darling," she said. "Do you think just a teeny sip ofchampagne ? Just to pull us together and toast the future.Oh, Mr. Entwhistle, it really is the most marvellous luckUncle Richard leaving us all that lovely money just now "Mr. Entwhistle noted the quick, almost scowling frown thatMichael gave, but Rosamund went on serenely:"Because there's the most wonderful chance of a play.Michael's got an option on it. It's a most wonderful part forhim and even a small part for me, too. It's about one ofthese young criminals, you know, that are really saints--it'sabsolutely full of the latest modem ideas.""So it would seem," said Mr. Entwhistle stiffly."He robs, you know, and he kills, and he's hounded bythe police and by society--and then in the end, he does amiracle."Mr. Entwhistle sat in outraged silence. Pernicious nonsensethese young fools talked I And wrote.Not that Michael Shane was talking much. There was stilla faint scowl on his face."Mr. Entwhistle doesn't want to hear all our rhapsodies,Rosamund," he said. "Shut up for a bit and let him tell uswhy he's come to see us.""There are just one or two little matters to straighten out,"said IVlr. Entwhistle. "I have just come back from LytchettSt. Mary.""Then it was Aunt Cora who was murdered ? We saw it inthe paper. And I said it must be because it's a very un-commonname. Poor old Aunt Cora. I was looking at her atthe funeral that day and thinking what a frump she was and4xthat really one might as well be dead if one looked like that--and now she is dead. They 'absolutely wouldn't believe itlast night when I told them that that murder with the hatchetin the paper was actually my aant! They just laughed, didn'tthey, Michael ?"Michael Shane did not reply and Rosamund with everyappearance of enjoyment said:"Two murders one after another. It's almost too much,isn't it ?""Don't be a fool, Rosamund, your Uncle Richard wasn'tmurdered.""Well, Cora thought he was."Mr. Entwhistle intervened to ask:"You came back to London after the funeral, didn'tyou ?""Yes, we came by the same train as you did.""Of course.., of course. I ask because I tried to gethold of you," he shot a quick glance at the telephone--" onthe following day--several times in fact, and couldn't get ananswer.""Oh dear--I'm so sorry. What were we doing that day ?The day before yesterday. We were here until about twelve,weren't we ? And then you went round to try and get hold ofRosenheim and you went on to lunch with Oscar and I wentout to see if I could get some nylons and round the shops.I was to meet Janet but we missed each other. Yes, I had alovely afternoon shopping--and then we dined at the Castile.We got back here about ten o'clock, I suppose.""About that," said Michael. He was looking thoughtfullyat Mr. Entwhistle. "What did you want to get hold of usfor, sir ?""Ohl Just some points that had arisen about RichardAbernethie's estate--papers to sign--all that."Rosamund asked: "Do we get the money now, or not forages ?""I'm afraid," said Mr. Entwhistle, "that the law is proneto delays.""But we can get an advance, can't we ? "Rosamund lookedalarmed. "Michael said we could.Actually it's terriblyimportant. Because of the play."Michael said pleasantly:"Oh, there's no real hurry. It's just a question of decidingwhether or not to take up the option.""It will be quite easy to advance you some money," saidMr. Entwhistle. "As much as you need."42"Then that's all right." Rosarnund gave a sigh of relief.She added as an afterthought: "Did Aunt Cora leave anymoney ?""A little. She left it to your Cousin Susan.""Why Susan, I should like to know I Is it much ?""A few hundred pounds and some furniture.""Nice furniture ?""No," said Mr. Entwhistle.Rosamund lost interest. "It's all very odd, isn't it ?" shesaid. "There was Cora, after the funeral, suddenly comingout with ' He uas murdered I ' and then, the very next day,sh goes and gets herself murdered ? I mean, it is odd, isn'tit ?"There was a moment's rather uncomfortable silence beforeMr. Entwhistle said quietly:"Yes, it is indeed very odd "4Mr.Entwhistle studied Susan Banks as she leant forward acrossthe table talking in her animated manner.Noneof the loveliness of Rosamund here. But it was an attractiveface and its attraction lay, Mr. Entwhistle decided, inits vitality. The curves of the mouth were rich and full. Itwas a woman's mouth and her body was very decidedly a woman's---emphaticallyso. Yet in many ways Susan remindedhim of her uncle, Richard Abernethie. The shape of herhead, the line of her jaw, the deep-set reflective eyes. Shehad the same kind of dominant personality that Richard hadhad, the same driving energy, the same foresightednessand forthright judgment. Of the three members of theyounger generation she alone seemed to be made of the metalthat had raised up the vast Abernethie fortunes. Had Richardrecognised in this niece a kindred spirit to his own ? Mr.Entwhistle thought he must have done. Richard had alwayshad a keen appreciation of character. Here, surely, were.exactly the qualities of which he was in search. And yet,n his will, Richard Abernethie had made no distinction in herfavour. Distrustful, as Mr. Entwhistle believed, of George,passing over that lovely dimwit, Rosamund--could he nothave found in Susan what he was seeking--an heir of hisown mettle ?If not, the cause must be--yes, it followed logically--thehusband ....43Mr. Entwhistle's eyes slid gently over Susan's shoulder towhere Gregory Has stood absently whittling at a pencil.A thin, pale, ncadescript your},g man with reddish sandyhair. So overshadowed by Susan s colourful personality thatit was difficult to realise what he himself was really like.Nothing to take h01d of in the fellow---quite pleasant, readyto be agreeablea "yes" man, as the modern term went.And yet that did not seem to describe him satisfactorily.There was something vaguely disquieting about the unobtrusivenessof Gregory Banks. He had been an unsuitablematch--yet Susa had insisted on marrying him--hadoverborne all opposition--why ? What had she seen in him ?And now, six ronths after the marriage--" She's crazyabout the fellow," Iix. Entwhistle said to himself. He knewthe signs. A large umber of Wives with matrimonial troubleshad passed through the office of Bollard, Entwhistle, Entwhistleand Bollard. Wives madly devoted to unsatisfactory andoften what appeared quite unprepossessing husbands, wivescontemptuous of, and bored by, apparently attractive andimpeccable husbands. What any woman saw in some particularman was beyond the comprehension of the average intelligentmale. It just was so. A woman who could be intelligentabout everything else in the world could be a complete foolwhen it came to some particular man. Susan, thought Mr.Entwhistle, was oe of those women. For her the worldrevolved around Grog. And that had its dangers in more waysthan one.Susan was talking with emphasis and indignation."--because it is disgraceful. You remember that womanwho was murdered in Yorkshire last year ? Nobody wasever arrested. And the old woman in the sweet skop who waskilled with a crowbar. They detained some man, and thenth,e., let hi go.There has to be evidence, my dear," said Mr. Entwhistle.Susan paid no attention."And that other case---a retired nurse--that was a hatchetor an axe--just like Aunt Cora.""Dear me, you appear to have made quite a study of thesecrimes, Susan," said Mr. Entwhistle mildly."Naturally one remembers these things--and when someonein one's own family is killed--and in very much the same way--well, it shows that there must be a lot of these sort ofpeople going round the countryside, breaking into places andattacking lonely women--and that the police just don't bother I"Mr. Entwhistle shook his head."Don't belittle the pohce, Susan. They are a very shrewdand patient body of men--persistent, too. Just because itisn't still mentioned in the newspapers doesn't mean that acase is closed. Far from it.""And yet there are hundreds of unsolved crimes everyyear."Hundreds ?" Mr. Entwhistle looked dubious. "Acertain number, yes. But there are many occasions when theolice know who has committed a crime but where the evidenceinsufficient for a prosecution.""I don't believe it," said Susan. "I believe if you knewdefinitely who committed a crime you could always get theevidence.""I wonder now." Mr. Entwhistle sounded thoughtful. "Ive,,ry, much wonder..."Have they any idea at a/J--in Aunt Cora's case--of who itmight be ?""That I couldn't say. Not as far as I know. But theywould hardly confide in me--and it's early days yetmthemurder took place only the day before yesterday, remember.""It's definitely got to be a certain kind of person," Susanmused. "A brutal, perhaps slightly half-witted type--adischarged soldier or a gaol bird. I mean, using a hatchetlike that."Looking slightly cuizzicl, Mr. Entwhistle raised his eyebrowsand murmurea:"Lizzie Borden with an axeGave her father fifty whacksWhen she saw what she had doneShe gave her mother fifty-one.""Oh," Susan flushed angrily, "C ora hadn't got any relationsliving with her--unless you mean the companion. Andanyway Lizzie Borden was acquitted. Nob,,ody knows forcertain she killed her father and stepmother."The rhyme is quite definitely libellous," Mr. Entwhistleagreed."You mean the companion did do it ? Did Cora leaveher anything ?""An amethyst brooch of no great value and some sketchesof fishing villages of sentimental value only.""One has to have a motive for murdermunless one ishalf-witted."45Mr. Entwhistle gave a little chuckle."As far as one can see, the only person who had a motiveis yo, my dear Susan.""What's that ?" Greg moved forward suddenly. He waslike a sleeper coming awake. An ugly light showed in hiseyes. He was suddenly no longer a negligible feature in thebackground. "What's Sue got to do with it ? What do youmean--saying things like that ?"Susan said sharply:"Shut up, Greg. llr. Entwhistle doesn't mean any-thing--""Just my little joke," said Mr. Entwhistle apologetically."Not in the best taste, I'm afraid. Cora left her estate,such as it was, to you, Susan. But to a young lady who hasjust inherited several hundred thousand pounds, an estate,amounting at the most to a few hundreds, can hardly be saidto represent a motive for murder.""She left her money to me ?" Susan sounded surprised."How extraordinary. She didn't even know me ? Why didshe do it, do you think ?""I think she had heard rum6urs that there had been alittle difficulty---er---over your marriage." Greg, back againat sharpening his pencil, scowled. "There had been a certainamount of trouble over her own marriage---and I think sheexperienced a fellow feeling."Susan asked with a certain amount of interest:"She married an artist, didn't she, whom none of thefamily liked ? Was he a good artist ?"Mr. Entwhistle shook his head very decidedly."Are there amy of his paintings in the cottage ?""Yes.""Then I shall judge for myself," said Susan.Mr. Entwhistle smiled at the resolute tilt of Susan's chin."So be it. Doubtless I am an old fogey and hopelesslyold-fashioned in matters of art, but I really don't think youwill dispute my verdict.""I suppose I ought to go down there, anyway ? And lookover what there is. Is there anybody there now ?""I have arranged with Miss Gilchrist to remain there untilfurther notice."Greg said: "She must have a pretty good nerve--to stayin a cottage where a murder's been committed.""Miss Gilchrist is quite a sensible woman, I should say.Besides," added the lawyer dryly, "I don't think she hasanywhere else to go until she gets another situation."46II,"So Aunt Cora's death left her high and dry ? Did she-- rere she and Aunt Cora---on intimate terms ?"Mr. Entwhistle looked at her rather curiously, wondering just exactly what was in her mind."Moderately so, I imagine," he said. "She never treatedMiss Gilchrist as a servant.""Treated her a damned sight worse, I dare say," saidSusan. "These wretched so called' ladies' are the ones whoget it taken out of them nowad, ays. I'll try and find her adecent post somewhere. It won t be difficult. Anyone who'swilling to do a bit of housework and cook is worth theirweight in gold--she does cook, doesn't she ?""Oh yes. I gather it is something she called, er, 'th rough' that she objected to. I'm afraid I don't quiteknowwhat ' the rough' is."Susan appeared to be a good deal amused.Mr. Entwhistle, glancing at his watch, said: "Your aunt left Timothy her executor.""Timothy," said Susan with scorn. "Uncle Timothy ispractically a myth. Nobody ever sees him.""Quite." Mr. Entwhistle glanced at his watch. "I amtravelling up to see him this afternoon. I will acquaint himwi,th, your decision to go down to the cottage."It will only take me a day or two, I imagine. I don'twant to be long away from London. I've got various schemesIn hand. I m going into busness.Mr. Entwhistle looked round him at the cramped sitting-roomof the tiny flat. Greg and Susan were evidently hard up.Her father, he knew, had run through most of his money. Hehad left his daughter badly off."What are your plans for the future, if I may ask ?" "I've got my eye on some premises in CardiganStreet.I suppose, if necessary, you can advance me some money ?I may have to pay a deposit.""That can be managed," said Mr. Entwhistle. "I rang youup the day after the funeral several times but could get noanswer. I thought perhaps you might care for an advance.I wondered whether you might perhaps have gone out ofTown.' '"Oh no," said Susan quickly. "We were in all day. Bothof us. \Ve didn't go out at all."Greg said gently: "You know, Susan, I think our telephonemust have been out of order that day. You remember howI couldn't get through to Hard and Co. in the afternoon. Imeant to report it, but it was all right the next morning."47"Teleph,o, nes," said Mr. Entwhistle," can be very unreliablesometimes.'Susan said suddenly:"How did Aunt Cora know about our marriage ? It wasat a Registry Office and we didn't tell anyone until after"Ifancy Richard may have told her about it. She remadeher will about three weeks ago (it was formerly in favour ofthe Theosophical Society)--just about the time he had beendown to see her."Susan looked startled."Did Uncle Richard go down to see her ? I'd no idea ofthat ?""I hadn't any idea of it myself," said }lr. Entwhistle."So that was when"When what ?""Nothing," said Susan.CHAPTER VI"VERY GOOD of yOU to come along," said Maude gruffly, asshe greeted Mr. Entwhistle on the platform of BayhamCompton station. "I can assure you that both Timothy andI much appreciate it. Of course the truth is that Richard'sdeath was the worst thing possible for Timothy."Mr. Entwhistle had not yet considered his friend's deathfrom this particular angle. But it was, he saw, the only anglefrom which Mrs. Timothy Aberuethie was likely to regard it.As they proceeded towards the exit, Maude developed thetheme."To begin with, it was a shock--Timothy was really veryattached to Richard. And then unfortunately it put the ideaof death into Timothy's head. Being such an invalid hasmade him rather nervous about himself. He realised that hewas the only one of the brothers left alive--and he startedsaying that he'd be the next to go---and that it wouldn't belong now--all very morbid talk, as I told him."They emerged from the station and Maude led the way to adilapidated car of almost fabulous antiquity."Sorry about our old rattletrap," she said. "We'vewanted a new car for years, but really we couldn't afford it.This has had a new engine twice--and these old cars reallystand up to a lot of hard work.48"I hope it will start," she added. "Sometimes one has towind it."She pressed the starter several times but only a meaninglesswhirr resulted. Mr. Entwhistle, who had never wound a carin his life, felt rather apprehensive, but Maude herself de-scended,inserted the starting handle and with a vigorouscouple of turns woke the motor to life. It was fortunate,Mr. Entwhistle reflected, that Maude was such a powerfullybuilt woman."That's that," she said. "The old brute's been playing meup lately. Did it when I was coming back after the funeral.Had to walk a couple of miles to the nearest garage and theyweren't good for muchmjust a village affair. I had to put upat the local inn while they tinkered at it. Of course that upsetTimothy: too. I had to phone through to him and tell himI couldn t be back till the next day. Fussed him terribly.One tries to keep things from him as much as jpossible--butsome things one can't do anything about--Cora s murder, forinstance. I had to send for Dr. Barton to give him a sedative.Things like murder are too much for a man in Timothy's stateof health. I gather Cora was always a fool."Mr. Entwhistle digested this remark in silence. The infer-encewas not quite clear to him."I don't think I'd seen Cora since our marriage," saidMaude. "I didn't like to say to Timothy at the time: ' Youryoungest sister's batty,' not just like that. But it's whatthought. There she was saying the most extraordinarythings t One didn't know whether to resent them or whetherto laugh. I suppose the truth is she lived in a kind of imaginaryworld of her own--full of melodrama and fantastic ideas aboutother people. Well, poor soul, she's paid for it now.Shedidn't have any proteges, did she ?""Proteges ? What do you mean ?""I just wondered. Some young cadging artist, or musician--or something of that kind. Someone she might have let inthat day, and who killed her for her loose cash. Perhaps anadolescent--they're so queer at that age sometimes--especiallyif they're the neurotic arty type. I mean, it seems so odd tobreak in and murder her in the middle of the afternoon. Ifyou break into a house surely you'd do it at night.""There would have been two women there then.""Oh yes, the companion. But really I can't believe thatanyone would deliberately wait until she was out of the wayand then break in and attack Cora. What for ? He can'thave expected she'd have any cash or stuff to speak of, and49there must have been times when both the women were out andthe house was empty. That would have been much safer. Itseems so stupid to go and commit a murder unless it's absolutely necessary.""And Cora's murder, you feel, was unnecessary ?"' It all seems so stupid."Should murder make sense ? Mr. Entwhistle wondered.Academically the answer was yes. But many pointless crimeswere on record. It depended, Mr. Entwhistle reflected, on thementality of the murderer.What did he really know about murderers and their mentalprocesses ? Very little. His firm had never had a criminalpractice. He was no student of criminology himself. Murderers, as far as he could judge, seemed to be of all sorts andkinds. Some had had over-weening vanity, some had hada lust 'for power, some, like Seddon, had been mean andavaricious, others, like Smith and Rowse had had an incrediblefascination for women; some, like Armstrong, had beenpleasant fellows to meet. Edith Thompson had lived in aworld of violent unreality, Nurse Waddington had put herelderly patients out of the way with business-like cheerfulness.Maude's voice broke into his meditations."If I could only keep the newspapers from Timothy!But he will insist on reading them--and then, of course, itupsets him. You do understand, don't you, Mr. Entwhistle,that there can be no question of Timothy's attending theinquest ? If necessary, Dr. Barton can write out a certificateor whatever it is.""You can set your mind at rest about that.""Thank goodness I"They turned in through the gates of Stansfield Grange,and up a neglected drive. It had been an attractive smallproperty once--but had now a doleful and neglected appearance. Maude sighed as she said:"We had to let this go to seed during the war. Bothgardeners called up. And now we've only got one old man--and he's not much good. Wages have gone up so terribly.I must say it's a blessing to realise that we'll be able to spenda little money on the place now. We're both so fond of it.I was really afraid that we might have to sell it NotthatI suggested anything of the kind to Timothy. It would haveupset him--dreadfully."Theydrew up before the portico of a very lovely old Georgianhouse which badly needed a coat of paint."No servants," said Maude bitterly, as she led the way in.50"Just a couple of women who come in. We had a residentmaid until a month ago-slightly hunchbacked and terriblyadenoidal and in many ways not too bright, but she was there which was such a comfort--and quitegood at plain cooking.And would you believe it, she gave notice and went to a foolof a woman who keeps six Pekinese dogs {it's a larger housethan this and more work) because she was ' so fond of littledoggies,' she said. Dogs, indeed! Being sick and makingmesses all the time I've no doubt! Really, these girls are mental I So there we are, and if I have to go outany afternoon,Timothy is left quite alone in the houae and if anythingshould happen, how could he get help ? Though I do leavethe telephone close by his chair so that if he felt faint hecould dial Dr. Barton immediately."Maude led the way into the drawing-room where tea waslaid ready by the fireplace, and establishing Mr. Entwhistlethere, disappeared, presumably to the back regions. Shereturned in a few minutes' time with a teapot and silver kettle,and proceeded to minister to Mr. Entwhistle's needs. It wasa good tea with home-made cake and fresh buns. Mr. Ent-whistlemurmured:"What about Timothy ?" and Maude explained brisklythat she had taken Timothy his tray before she set out forthe station."And now," said Maude, "he will have had his little napand it will be the best time for him to see you. Do try andnot let him excite himself too much."Mr. Entwhistle assured her that he would exercise everyprecaution.Studying her in the flickering firelight, he was seized by afeeling of compassion. This big, stalwart matter-of-factwoman, so healthy, so vigorous, so full of common sense, andet so strangely, almost pitifully, vulnerable in one spot.er love for her husband was maternal love, Mr. Entwhistledecided. Maude Abernethie had borne no child and she wasa woman built for motherhood. Her invalid husband hadbecome her child, to be shielded, guarded, watched over. Andperhaps, being the stronger character of the two, she had unconsciouslyimposed on him a state of invalidism greater thamight otherwise have been the case."Poor Mrs. Tim," thought Mr. Entwhistle to himself."Good of you to come, Entwhistle."Timothy raised himself up in Iris chair as he held out a hand.He was a big man with a marked resemblance to his brotherRichard. But what was strength in Richard, in Timothy wasweakness. The mouth was irresolute, the chin very slightlyreceding, the eyes less deep-set. Lines of peevish irritabilityshowed on his forehead.His invalid status was emphasised by the rug across hisknees and a positive pharmacopoeia of little bottles and boxeson a table at his right hand."I mustn't exert myself," he said warningly. "Doctor's forbidden it. Keeps telling me not to worry! Worry!If he'd had a murder in his family he'd do a bit of worrying, Ibet l It's too much for a man first Richard's death---thenhearing all about his funeral and his will what a will !--andon top of that poor little Cora killed with a hatchet. Hatchet IUgh! This country's full of gangsters nowadays--thugs---leftover from the war! Going about killing defencelesswomen. Nobody's got the guts to put these things down--totake a strong hand. What's the country coming to, I'd liketo know ? What's the damned country coming to ?"Mr. Entwhistle was familiar with this gambit. It was aquestion almost invariably asked sooner or later by his clientsfor the last twenty years and he had his routine for answeringit. The non-committal words he uttered could have beenclassified under the heading of soothing noises."It all began with that damned Labour Government," saidTimothy. "Sending the whole country to blazes. And theGovernment we've got now is no better. Mealy-mouthed:milk-and-water sots I Look at the state ws're in I Can'tget a decent gardener, can't get servants--poor Maude herehas to work herself to a shadow messing about in the kitchen(by the way, I think a custard pudding would go well with thesole to-night, my dear--and perhaps a little clear soup first ?).I've got to keep my strength up--Doctor Barton said so--letme see, where was I ? Oh yes, Cora. It's a shock, I can tellyou, to a man, when he hears his sister--his own sister--hasbeen murdered I Why, I had palpitations for twenty minutes IYou'll have to attend to everything for me, Entwhistle. Ican't go to the inquest or be bothered by business of anykind connected with Cora's estate. I want to forget the wholething. What happens, by the way, to Cora's share of Richard'smoney ? Comes to me, I suppose ?"52Murmuring something about clearing away tea, Maudeleft the room.Timothy lay hack in his chair and said:"Good thing to get rid of the women. Now we can talkbusiness without any silly interruptions.""The sum left in trust for Cora," said Mr. Entwhistle,"goes equally to you and the nieces and 'iel)hew.""But look here," Timothy's cheeks assum'ed a purplish hueof indignation. "Surely I'm her next of kin ? Only survivingbrother."Mr. Entwhistle explained with some care the exact provisions of Richard Abernethie's will, reminding Timothy gentlythat he had had a copy sent him."Don't expect me to understand all that legal jargon, doyou ?" said Timothy ungratefully. "You lawyers I Matterof fact, I couldn't believe it when Maude Came home and toldme the gist of it. Thought she'd got it Wrong. Women arenever clear headed. Best woman in the world, Maude--butwomen don't understand finance. I dcn't believe Mandeeven realises that if Richard hadn't died when he did, wemight have had to clear out of here. Fact I""Surely if you had applied to Richard------",T, imot,h,y gave a short bark of harsh laughter.' That s not my style. Our father left us all a perfectlyreasonable share of his money--that is, if we didn't want togo into the family concern. I didn't. I've a soul abovecorn-plasters, Entwhistle I Richard took my attitude a bithard. Well, what with taxes, depreciation of income, one thingand another--it hasn't been easy to keep things going. I'vehad to realise a good deal of capital. Best thing to do thesedays. I did hint once to Richard that this place was gettinga bit hard to run. He took the attitude that we'd be muchbetter off in a smaller place altogether. Easier for Maude, hesaid, more labour saving---labour saving, what a term I Ohno, I wouldn't have asked Richard for help. But I can tellyou, Entwhistle, that the worry affected my health mostunfavourably. A man in my state of health oughtn't to haveto worry. Then Richard died and though of course naturallyI was cut up about it--my brother and all that--I couldn'thelp feeling relieved about future prospects. Yes, it's all plainsailing now--and a great relief. Get the house painted--geta couple of really good men on the gardenyou can get themat a price. Restock the rose garden completely.And-where was I.""Detailing your future plans."53"Yes, yes--but I mustn't bother you with all that. Whatdid hurt me--and hurt me cruelly--were the terms ofRichard's will.""Indeed ?" Mr. Entwhistle looked inquiring. "They were not--as you expected ?""I should say they weren't I Naturally, after lortimer'sdeath, I assumed that Richard would leave everything to"Ah--did he---ever--indicate that to you ?""He never said so---not in so many words. Reticent sortof chap, Richard. But he asked himself here--not long afterMortimer's death. Wanted to talk over family affairs generally.We discussed young George--and the girls and theirhusbands. Wanted to know my views--not that I couldtell him much. I'm an invalid and I don't get about, andMaude and I live out of the world. Rotten silly marriagesboth of those girls made, if you ask me. Well, I ask you,Entwhistle, naturally I thought he was consulting me as thehead of the family after he was gone and naturally I thoughtthe control of the money would be mine. Richard couldsurely trust me to do the right thing by the younger generation.And to look after poor old Cora. Dash it all, Ent-whistle,I'm an Abernethie---the last Abernethie. Fullcontrol should have been left in my hands."In his excitement Timothy had kicked aside his rug and hadsat up in his chair. There were no signs of weakness orfragility about him. He looked, Mr. Entwhistle thought, aperfectly healthy man, even if a slightly excitable one. Moreoverthe old lawyer realised very clearly that Timothy Abernethiehad probably always been secretly jealous of his brotherRichard. They had been sufficiently alike for Timothy toresent his brother's strength of character and firm grasp ofaffairs. When Richard had died, Timothy had exulted in theprospect of succeeding at this late date to the power tocontrol the destinies of others.Richard Abernethie had not given him that power. Hadhe thought of doing so and then decided against it ?A sudden squalling of cats in the garden brought Timothyup out of his chair. Rushing to the window he threw up thesash, bawled out "Stop it, you l" and picking up a largebook hurled it out at the marauders.; "Beastly cats," he grumbled, returning to his visitor."Ruin the flower beds and I can't stand that damnedyowling."He sat down again and asked:54"Have a drink, Entwhistie ?""Not quite so soon. Maude has just given me an excellenttea."Timothy grunted."Capable woman, Maude. But she does too much. Evenhas to muck about with the inside of that old car of ours--she'squite a mechanic in her way, you know.""I hear she had a breakdown coming back from thefuneral ?""Yes. Car conked out. She had the sense to telephonethrough about it, in case I should be anxious, but that ass ofa daily woman of ours wrote down the message in a way thatdidn't make sense. I was out getting a bit of fresh air--I'madvised by the doctor to take what exercise I can if I feel likeit--I got back from my walk to find scrawled on a bit of paper:' Madam's sorry car gone wrong got to stay night.' NaturallyI thought she was still at Enderby. Put a call through andfound Maude had left that morning. Might have had thebreakdown anywhere I Pretty kettle of fish I Fool of a dailywoman only left me a lumpy macaroni cheese for supper. Ihad to go down to the kitchen and warm it up myself--and make myself a cup of tea--to say nothing ofstoking theboiler. I might have had a heart attack--but does thatclass of woman care ? Not she ? With any decent feelingsshe'd have come back that evening and looked after meproperly. No loyalty any more in the lower classes"He brooded sadly."I don't know how much Maude told you about the funeraland the relatives," said Mr. Entwhistle. "Cora producedrather an awkward moment. Said brightly that Richard hadbeen murdered, hadn't he ? Perhaps Maude told you."Timothy chuckled easily."Oh yes, I heard about that. Everybody looked downtheir noses and pretended to be shocked. Just the sort ofthing Cora would say I You know how she always managedto put her foot in it when she was a girl, Entwhistle ? Saidsomething at our wedding that upset Maude, I remember.llaude never cared for her very much. Yes, Maude rang meup that evening after the funeral to know if I was all rightand if Mrs. Jones had come in to give me my evening mealand then she told me it had all gone off very well, and I said' What about the will ? ' and she tried to hedge a bit, but ofcourse I had the truth out of her. I couldn't believe it, andI said she must have made a mistake, but she stuck to it. Ithurt me, Entwhistle--it really wonded me, if you know what55I mean. If you ask me, it was just spite on Richard's part.! know o,,ne shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but, upon myword--Timothy continued on this theme for some time.Then Maude came back into the room and said firmly:"! think, dear, Mr. Entwhistle has been with you quitelong enough.You really must rest. If you have settledeverything""Oh, we've settled things. I leave it all to you, Entwhistle.Let me know when they catch the fellow--if they ever do.I've no faith in the police nowadays--the Chief Constablesaren't the right type. You'll see to the--er--interment--won'tyou ? We shan't be able to come, I'm afraid. Butorder an expensive wreath--and there must be a proper stonett up in due course-she'll be buried locally, I suppose ?point in bringing her North and I've no idea whereLansquenet is buried, somewhere in France I believe. I don'tknow what one puts on a stone when it's murder Can'tverywell say ' entered into rest ' or anything like that. One willhave to choose a text--something appropriate. R.I.P. ? No,that's only for Catholics.""0Lord, thou hast seen my wrong. Judge thou my case," murmuredMr. Entwhistle.Thestartled glance Timothy bent on him made Mr. Ent-whistle smilefaintly."From Lamentations,"he said. "It seems appropriate if somewhat melodramatic.However, it will be some time before thequestion of the Memorial stone comes up. The--er --ground hasto settle, you know. Now don't worry about anything. Wewill deal with things and keep you fully informed."Mr.Entwhistleleft for London by the breakfast train on the followingmorning.When hegot home, after a little hesitation, he rang up a friendof his.CHAPTER VIII CAN'Ttell you how much I appreciate your invitation." Mr. Entwhistlepressed his host's hand warmly.Hercule Poirotgestured hospitably to a chair by the fire. Mr. Entwhistlesighed as he sat down.On oneside of the room a table was laid for two.56"I returned from the country this morning," he said."And you have a matter on which you wish to consultrile ? '"Yes. It's a long rambling story, I'm afraid.""Then we will not have it until after we have dined.Georges ?"The efficient George materialised with some Pdtd de Foie Grasaccompanied by hot toast in a napkin."We will have our Ptltd by the fire," said Poirot. "Afterwards we will move to the table."It was an hour and a half later that Mr. Entwhistle stretchedhimself comfortably out in his chak and sighed a contentedsigh."You certainly know how to do yourself well, Poirot.Trust a Frenchman.""I am a Belgian. But the rest of your remark applies.At my age the chief pleasure, almost the only pleasure that stillremains, is the pleasure of the table.Mercifully I have anexcellent stomach.""Ah," murmured Mr. Entwhistle.They had dined off Sole Veronique, followed by Escalope deVeau Milanaise, proceeding to Poire Flambde with ice-cream.They had drunk a Pouilly Fuisse followed by a Corton, anda very good port now reposed at Mr. Entwhistle's elbow.Poirot, who did not care for port, was sipping Crgme de Cacao."I don't know," murmured Mr. Entwhistle reminiscently,"how you manage to get hold of an escalope like that [ Itmelted in the mouth I""I have a friend who is a Continental butcher. For himI solve a small domestic problem. He is appreciative--andever since then he is most sympathetic to me in the matterof the stomach.""A domestic problem." lr. Entwhistle sighed. "I wishyou had not reminded me... This is such a perfect moment...""Prolong it, my friend. We will have presently the demitasse and the fine brandy, and then, when digestion ispeacefully under way, the.n you shall tell why you need myadvice."The clock struck the half hour after nine before Mr. Ent-whistlestirred in his chair. The psychological moment hadcome. He no longer felt reluctant to bring forth his per-plexities--hewas eager to do so."I don't know," he said," whether I'm making the mostcolossal fool of myself. In any case I don't see that there's57anything that can possibly be done. But I'd like to put thefacts before you, and I'd like to know what you think."He paused for a moment or two, then in his dry meticulousway, he told his story. His trained legal brain enabled himto put the facts clearly, to leave nothing out, and to addnothing extraneous. It was a clear succinct account, and assuctx appreciated by the little elderly man with the egg;shaped head who sat listening to him.When he had finished there was a pause. Mr. Entwhistlewas prepared to answer questions, but for some few momentsno question came. Hercule Poirot was reviewing the evidence.I-Ie said at last:"It seems very clear. You have in your mind the suspicionthat your friend, Richard Abernethie, may have been murdered? That suspicion, or assumption, rests on the basis ofone thing only--t,hwords spoken by Cora Lansqu,net atRichard Abernthi s funeral. Take those away--and there isnothing left. The fact that she herself was murdered the dayafterwards may be the purest coincidence. It is true thatRichard Abernethie died suddenly, but he was attended by areputable doctor who knew him well, and that doctor had nosuspicions and gave a death certificate. Was Richard buriedor cremated ?""Cremated--according to his own request.""Yes, that is the law. And it means that a second doctorsigned the certificate--but there would be no difficulty aboutthat. So we come back to the essential point, whaJ CortLansqunt said. You were there and you heard her. Shesaid: ' But he was murdered, wasn't he ? '""Yes.""And the real point is--that you believe she was speakingthe truth."The lawyer hesitated for a moment, then he said: "Yes, I do.""Why?""Why ?" Entwhistle repeated the word, slightly puzzled."But yes, why ? Is it because, already, deep down, youhad an uneasiness about the manner of Richard's death ?"The lawyer shook his head. "No, no, not in the least.""Then it is because of hr---of Cora herself. You knewher well ?""I had not seen her for--oh---over twenty years.""Would you have known her if you had met her in thestreet ?"Mr. Entwhistle reflected.58"I might have passed her by in the street without recognisingher. She was a thin slip of a girl when I saw her lastand she had turned into a stout, shabby, middle-aged woman.But I think that the moment I spoke to her face to face Ishould have recognised her. She wore her hair in the sameway, a bang cut straight across the forehead and she had atrick of peering up at you through her fringe like a rather shyanimal, and she had a very characteristic, abrupt way oftalking, and a way of putting her head on one side and thencoming out with something quite outrageous. She had character, you see, and character is always highlyindividual.""She was, in fact, the same Cora you had known years ago.And she still said outrageous things! The things, the outrageousthings, she had said in the past--were they usually--justified?""That was always the awkward thing about Cora. Whentruth would have been better left unspoken, she spoke it.""And that characteristic remained unchanged. RichardAbernethie was murdered--so Cora at once mentioned thefact."Mr. Entwhistle stirred."You think he was murdered ?""Oh, no, no, my friend, we cannot go so fast. We agreeon this--Cora thought he had been murdered. She was quitesure he had been murdered. It was, to her, more a certaintythan a surmise. And so, we come to this, she must have hadsome reason for the belief. We agree, by your knowledge ofher, that it was not just a bit of mischief making. Now tellme--when she said what she did, there was, at once, a kindof chorus of protest--that is right ?""Quite right.""And she then became confused, abashed, and retreatedfrom the position--saying--as far as you can remember,something like ' But I thought from what he told me '" The lawyer nodded."I wish I could remember more clearly. But I am fairlysure of that. She used the words 'he told me' or 'hesaid' ""And the matter was then smoothed over and everyonespoke of something else. You can remember, looking back,no s.pecial expression on anyone's face ? Anything thatremains in your memory as shall we say--unusual ?""And the very next day, Cora is killed---and you askyourself :. ' Can it Be cause and effect ? '"The lawyer stirred."I suppose that seems to you quite fantastic ?""Not at all," said Poirot. "Given that the original assumptionis correct, it is logical. The perfect murder, the murderof Richard Abernethie, has been committed, all has gone oftsmoothly--and suddenly it appears that there is one personwho has a knowledge of the truth I Clearly that person mustbe silenced as quickly as possible.""Then you do think that it was murder ?"Poirot said gravely:"I think, mon cher, exactly as you thought that thereis a case for investigation. Have you taken any steps ? Youhave spoken of these matters to the police ?""No." Mr. Entwhistle shook his head. "It did not seemto me that any good purpose could be achieved. My positionis that I represent the family. If Richard Abernethie wasmurdered, there seems only one method by which it could bedone."By poison ?""Exactly. And the body has ben cremated. There is nowno evidence available. But I decided that I, myself, must besatisfied on the point. That is why, Pokot, I have come toyOU.""Who was in the house at the time of his death ?""An old butler who has been with him for years, a cook and a housemaid. It would seem, perhaps, asthough it mustnecessarily be one of theme""Ah! do not try to pull the wool upon my eyes. ThisCora, she knows Richard Abernethie was killed, yet she acquiesces ',m the hushing up. She says ' Ithink you are allquite right. Therefore t must be one of the family who isconcerned, someone whom the victim himself might prefernot to have openly accused. Otherwise, since Cora was fondof her brother, she would not agree to let the sleeping murdererlie:, You agree to that, yes ?"It was the way I reasoned--yes," confessed Mr. Entwhistle. "Though how any of the family could possibly"Poirot cut him.short."Where poison is concerned there axe all sorts of possibilities.It must, presumably, have been a narcotic of somesort if he died in his sleep and if there were no suspiciousappearances. Possibly he was already having some narcoticadministered to him. '"In any case," said Mr. Entwhistle, "the how hardlymatters. We shall never be able to prove anything.""In the case of Richard Abernethie, no. But the murderof Cora Lansquenet is different. Once we know ' who' thenevidence ought to be possible to get." He added with a sharpglance, "You have, perhaps, already done something.""Very little. My purpose was mainly, I think, elimination. It is distasteful to me to think that one of theAbernethiefamily is a murderer. I still can't quite believe it. I hopedthat by a few apparently idle questions I could exoneratecertain members of the family beyond question. Perhaps,who knows, all of them ? In which case, Cora would havebeen wrong in her assumption and her own death could beascribed to some casual prowler who broke in. After all, theissue is very simple. What were the members of the Abernethiefamily doing on the afternoon that Cora Lansquenet waskilled ?""Eh bien," said Poirot, "what were they doing ?""George Crossfield was at Hurst Park races. RosamundShane was out shopping in London. Her husband--for onemust include husbands ""Assuredly.""Her husband was fixing up a deal about an option on aplay, Susan and Gregory Banks were at home all day. TimothyAbernethie, who is an invalid, was at his home in Yorkshire,and his wife was driving herself home from Enderby."He stopped.Hercule Poirot looked at him and nodded comprehendingly. "Yes, that is what they say. And is it all true?""I simply don't know, Poirot. Some of the statements arecapable of proof or disproof--but it would be difficult to doso without showing one's hand pretty plainly. In fact to doso would be tantamount to an accusation. I will simply tellyou certain conclusions of my own. George may have beenat Hurst Park races, but I do not think he was. He was rashenough to boast that he had backed a couple of winners. It ismy experience that so many offenders against the law ruintheir own case by saying too much. I asked him the name ofthe winners, and he gave the names of two horses without anyapparent hesitation. Both of them, I found, had been heavilytipped on the day in question and one had duly won. The other, though an odds on favourite, hadunaccountably failedeven to get a place.""Interesting. Had this George any urgent need for moneyat the time of his uncle's death ?""It is my impression that his need was very urgent. Ihave no evidence for saying so, but I strongly suspect that6Ihe has been speculating with kis clients' funds and that hewas in danger of prosecution. It is only my impression butI have some experience in these matters. Defaulting solicitors, I regret to say, are not entirely uncommon. I can onlytell you that I would not have cared to entrust my own fundsto George, and I suspect that Richard Abernethie, a veryshrewd judge of men, was dissatisfied with his nephew andplaced no reliance on him."His mother," the lawyer continued, "was a good-looking,rather foolish girl and she married a man of what I should calldubious character." He sighed. "The Abernethie girls werenot good choosers."I-Ie paused and then went on:"As for Rosamund, she is a lovely nitwit. I really cannotsee her smashing Cora's head in with a hatchet I Her husband,Michael Shane, is something of a dark horse--he's a man withambition and also a man of overweening vanity I should say.But really I know very little about him. I have no reason tosuspect him of a brutal crime or of a carefully planned poisoning, but until I know that he really,was doing what he sayshe was doing I cannot rule him out.'"But you have no doubts about the wife ? '"No--no--there is a certain rather startling callousness...but no, I really cannot envisage the hatchet. She is a fragilelooking creature.""And beautiful I" said Poirot with a faint cynical smile."And the other niece ?""Susan ? She is a very different type from Rosamund--agirl of remarkable ability, I should say. She and her husbandwere at home together that day. I said (falsely) that I hadtried to get them on the telephone on the afternoon in question.Greg said very quickly that the telephone had been out oforder all day. He had tried to get someone and fa[led.""So again it is not conclusivecannot eliminateasYouyou hoped to do What isthe husband like ?""I findhim hard to make out. He has a somewhat unpleasing personalitythough one cannot say exactly why hemakes thisimpression. As for Susan""Yes ?""Susan reminds me of her uncle. She has the vigour, thedrive, the mental capacity of Richard Abernethie. It may bemy fancy that she lacks some of the kindliness and the warmthof my old friend.""Women are never kind," remarked Poirot. "Though theycan sometimes be tender. She loves her husband ?""Devotedly, I should say. But really, Poirot, I can'tbelieveI won't believe for one moment that Susan ""You prefer George ?" said Poirot. "It is natural I Asfor me, I am not so sentimental about beautiful young ladies.Now tell me about your visit to the older generation ?"Mr. Entwhistle described his visit to Timothy and Maudeat some length. Poirot summarised the result."So Mrs. Abernethie is a good mechanic. She knows allabout the inside of a car. And Mr. Abernethie is not theinvalid he likes to think himself. He goes out for walks and is,according to you, capable of vigorous action. He is also abit of an ego maniac and he resented his brother's success andsuperior character.""He spoke very affectionately of Cora.""And ridiculed her silly remark after the funeral. Whatof the sixth beneficiary ?""Helen ? Mrs. Leo ? I do not suspect her for a moment.In any case, her innocence will be easy to prove. She was atEnderby. With three servants in the house.""Eh bien, my friend," said Poirot. "Let us be practical.Vvat do you want me to do ?""I want to know the truth, Poirot.""Yes. Yes, I should feel the same in your place.""And you're the man to find it out for me. I know youdon't take cases any more, but I ask you to take this one.This is a matter of business. I will be responsible for yourfees. Come now, money is always useful."Poirot grinned."Not if it all goes in the taxes I But I will admit, yourproblem interests me I Because it is not easy Itis all sonebulous.... One thing, my friend, had better be done by you. Afterthat, I will occupy myself of everything. But I think itwill be best if you yourself seek out the doctor whoattended Mr.Richard Abernethie. You know him ?" "Slightly.""Whatishe like ?""Middle-aged G.P.Quite competent. On very friendly terms withRichard. A thoroughly good fellow.""Then seekhim out. He will speak more freely to you than tome. Ask him about Mr. Abernethie's illness. Find out whatmedicines Mr. Abernethie was taking at the time of his deathand before. Find out if Richard Abernethie ever said anythingto his doctor about fancying himself being poisoned. Bythe way, this Miss Gilchrist is sure that he used the term poisoned in talking to his sister ?"63Mr. Entwhistle reflected."It was the word she usedwbut she is the type of witnesswho often changes the actual words used, because she is con-vincedshe is keeping to the sense of them. If Richard hadsaid he was afraid someone wanted to kill him, Miss Gilchristmight have assumed poison because she connected his fearswith those of an aunt of hers who thought her food was beingtampered with. I can take up the point with her again sometime.""Yes. Or I will do so." He paused and then said in adifferent voice: "Has it occurred to you, my f,ri,e, nd, that yourMiss Gilchrist may be in some danger herself ?Mr.Entwhistle looked surprised.can't say that it had.""But, yes. Cora voiced her suspicions on the day oI thefuneral. The question in the murderer's mind will be, didshe voice them to anybody when she first heard of Richard'sdeath ? And the most likely person for her to have spoken toabout them will be Miss Gilchrist. I think, on char, thatshe had better not remain alone in that cottage.""I believe Susan is going down.""Ah, so Mrs. Banks is going down ?""She wants to look through Cora's things.""I see... I see... Well, my friend, do what I haveasked of you. You might also prepare Mrs. AbernethieMrs.Leo Abernethie, for the possibility that I may arrive in thehouse. We will see. From now on I occupy myself of every-thing."And Poirot twirled his moustaches with enormous energy.CHAPTER VIIIMR. ENTWHISTLE looked at Dr. Larraby though, tfully.He had had a lifetime of experience in summing people up.There had been frequent occasions on which it had beennecessary to tackle a difficult situation or a delicate subject.Mr. Entwhistle was an adept by now in the art of how exactlyto make the proper approach. How would it be best to tackleDr. Larraby on what was certainly a very difficult subject andone which the doctor might very well resent as reflecting uponhis own professional skill ?Frankness, Mr. Entwhistle thought---or at least a modifiedfrankness. To say that suspicions had arisen because of a64haphazard suggestion thrown out by a silly woman would beRI-advised. Dr. Larraby had not known Cora.Mr. Entwhistle cleared his throat and plunged br,,avely. "I want to consult you on a very delicate matter,'he said. "You may be offended, but I sincerely hope not. You are asensible man and you will realise, I'm sure, that a--er--preposteroussuggestion is best dealt with by finding a reasonableanswer and not by condemning it out of hand. Itconcerns my client, the late Mr. Abernethie. I'll ask you myquestion flat out. Are you certain, absolutely ctain, that he died what is termed a natural death ?"Dr. Larraby's good-humoured, rubicund middle-aged faceturned in astonishment on his questioner."What on earthOf course he did. I gave a certificate,didn't I ? If I hadn't been satisfied "Mr. Entwhistle cut in adroitly:"Naturally, naturally. I assure you that I am not assuminganything to the contrary. But I would be glad to have yourpositive assurance--in face of the--er--rurnours that areflying around.""Rumours ? What rnmours ?""One doesn't know quite how these things start," saidMr. Entwhistle mendaciously. "But my feeling is that theyshould be stopped--authoritatively, if possible.""Abernethie was a sick man. He was suffering from &disease that would have proved fatal within, I should say, atthe earliest, two years. It might have come much sooner. Hisson's death had weakened his will to live, and his powers ofresistance. I admit that I did not expect his death to comeso soon, or indeed so suddenly, but there are precedents--plenty of precedents. Any medical man who predicts exactlywhen a patient will die, or exactly how long he will live, isbound to make a fool of himself. The human factor is alwaysincalculable. The weak have often unexpected powers ofresistance, the strong sometimes succumb.""I understand all that. I am not doubting your diagnosis.Mr. Abernethie was, shall we say (rather melodramaticallr,I'm afraid) under sentence of death. All I'm asking you s,is it quite impossible that a man, knowing or suspecting thathe is doomed, might of his own accord shorten that periodof life ? Or that someone else might do it for him ?"Dr. Larraby frowned."Suicide, you mean ? Abernethie wasn't a suicidal type.""I see. You can assure me, medically speaking, that sucha suggestion is impossible."A.T.S. 65 cThe doctor stirred uneasily."I wouldn't use the word impossible. After his son's deathlife no longer held the interest for Abernethie that it had done.I certa/nly don't feel that suicide is likely--but I can't saythat it's impossible.""You are speaking from the psychological angle. When Isaid medically, I really meant; do the circumstances of hisdeath make such a suggestion impossible ?""No, oh no. No, I can't say that. He died in his sleep, aspeople often do. There was no reason to suspect suicide, noevidence of his state of mind. If one were to demand anautopsy e, yery time a man who is seriously ill died in hissleepThe doctor's face was getting redder and redder. Mr.Entwhistle hastened to interpose."Of course. Of course. But if there had been evidence--evidenceof which you yourself were not aware ? If, forinstance, he had said something to someone ""Indicating that he was contemplating suicide ? Did he ?I must say it surprises me.""But if it wers so--my case is purely hypothetical-couldyou rule out the possibility ?",D,r. Larraby said slowly:No--no---I could not do that. But I say again, I shouldbe very much surprised.",,Mr. Entwhistle hastened to follow up his advantage.If, then, we assume that his death was not natural-allthis is purely hypothetical--what could have caused it ?What kind of a drug, I mean ?""Several. Some kind of a narcotic would be indicated.There was no sign of cyanosis, the attitude was quitepeaceful.""He had sleeping draughts or pills ? Something of thatkind.""Yes. I had prescribed Slumberyl--a very safe anddependable hypnotic. He did not take it every night. And heonly had a small bottle of tablets at a time. Three or evenfour times the prescribed dose would not have caused death.In fact, I remember seeing the bottle on his wash-stand afterhis death still nearly full.""What else had you prescribed for him ?""Various things--a medicine containing a small quantityof morphia to be taken when he had an attack of pain. Somevitamin capsules. An indigestion mixture."Mr. Entwhistle interrupted.66"Vitamin capsules ? I think I was once prescribed a courseof those. Small round capsules of gelatine.""Yes. Containing adexoline.""Could anything else have been introduced intosay---oneof those capsules ?""Something lethal, you mean ?" The doctor was lookingmo, re,a,nd me ,surprised. "But surely no man would ever--look acre, ncwhistle, what are ,ou getting at ? My God,man, are you suggestinmurder ? '"I don't quite know 'what I'm,suggesting Ijust wanttoknow what would be possible."But what evidence have you for even suggesting such at]g ?""I haven't any evidence," said Mr. Entwhistle in atiredvoice. "Ma-. Abernethie is dead--and the person to whomhespoke is also dead. The whole thing is turnout--vague,un satisfactoryrumour, and I want to scotch it if I can.Ifyou tell me that no one could possibly have poisonedAber nethiein any way whatsoever, I'll be delighted l Itwouldbe a big weight off my mind, I can assureyou.",D,r. La,?b,y' got up.and walked up and down. , can t ten you what you want me totell you, ' he said at last. "I wish I could. Ofcourse it could have been done. Anybody could have extractedthe oil from a capsule and replaced it with--say--purenicotine or half a dozen other things. Or something could havebeen put in his food or drink? Isn't that more likely ?""Possibly. But you see,there were only the servants in the house when he died--andI don't think it was any of them--in fact I'm quitesure it wasn't. So I'm looking forsome delayedaction possibility. There's no drug, I suppose, that ,o,ucanadminister and then the person dies weeks later"A convenient idea--but untenable, I'm afraid," said thedoctor dryly. "I know you're a responsible person, Ent-whistle, but who is making this suggestion? It seems to me wildly far fetched."- "Abernethie neversaid anything to you ? Never hinted that .o,n,e of his relationsmight bewanting him out of the waytThe doctor looked at him curiously.' No, he never saidanythh}g to me. Are you sure, Ent~ whistle, thatsomebody hasn t been--well, playing up the sensational ?Some hysterical subjects can give an appearance ofbeingquitereasonableandnormal,youknow."67"I hope it was like that. It might well be.""Let me understand. Someone claims that Abernethietold her--it was a woman, I,,suppose ?""Oh yes, it was a woman."--told her that someone was trying to kill him ?"Cornered, Mr. Entwhistle reluctantly told the tale of Cora'sremark at the funeral. Dr. Larraby's face lightened."My dear fellow. I shouldn't pay any attentionl Theexplanation is quite simple. The woman's at a certain .timeof life--craving for sensation, unbalanced, unreliable--might wi"say anything. They do, you kno ,Mr. Entwhistle resented the doctor s easy assumption. Hehimself had had to deal with plenty of sensation-hunting andhysterical women."Yomay be quite right," he said, rising., "Unfortunately we can t tackle her on the subject, as she s beenmurderedherself.""What's that--murdered ?" Dr. Larraby looked as thoughhe had grave suspicions of Mr. Entwhistle's own stability ofmind."You've probably read about it in the paper. Mrs. Lam-quenetat Lytchett St. Mary in Berkshire.""Of course--I'd no idea she was a relation of RichardAbernethie's I" Dr. Larraby was looking quite shaken.Feeling that he had revenged himself for the doctor'sprofessional superiority, and unhappily conscious that his ownsuspicions had not been assuaged as a result of the visit,Mr. Entwhistle took his leave.Back at Enderby, Mr. Entwhistle decided to talk toLanscombe.He started by asking the old butler what his plans were. "Mrs. Leo has asked me to stay on here untilthe house issold, sir, and I'm sure I shall be very pleased to oblige her.We are all very fond of Mrs. Leo." He sighed. "I feel itvery much, sir, if you will excuse me mentioning it, that thehouse has to be sold. I've known it for so very many y. ears,and seen all the young ladies and gentlemen grow up in it.I always thought that Mr. Mortimer would come after hisfather and perhaps bring up a family here, too. It wasarranged, sir, that I should go to the North Lodge when I got68ast doing my work here. A very nice little place, the Northodge--and I look.e,d forward to having it very spick and span.But I suppose that s all over now.""I'm afraid so, Lanscombe. The estate will all have tobe,sold t,o, gether. But with your legaclr "Oh I m not complaining, sir, aha I'm very sensible ofMr. Abernethie'sgenerosity. I'm well provided for, but it'snot so easy to finda little place to buy nowadays and thoughmy married niece has asked me to make my home with them,well, it won',t, be quite the same thing as living on the estate.""I know, said Mr. Entwhistle. "It's a hard new worldfor us old fellows. I wish I'd seen more of my old friendbefore he went. How did he seem those last few months ?""Well, he wasn't himself, sir. Not since Mr. Mortimer'sdeath.""No, it broke him up. And then he was a sick man--sickmen have strange fancies sometimes. I imagine Mr. Abernethiesuffered from that sort of thing in his last days. Hespoke of enemies sometimes, of somebody wishing to do himharm--perhaps ? He may even have thought his food wasbeing tampered with ?"Old Lanscombe looked surprised--surprised and offended. "I cannot recall anything of that kind, sir."Entwhistle looked at him keenly."You're a very loyal servant, Lanscombe, I know that.But such fancies, on Mr. Abernethie's part would be quite--er--unimportant--a natural symptom in some---er diseases.""Indeed, sir ? I can only say Mr. Abernethie never saidanything like that to me, or in my hearing."Mr. Entwhistle slid gently to another subject."He had some of his family down to stay with him, didn'the, before he died. His nephew and his two nieces and theirhusbands ?""Yes, sir, that is so.""Was he satisfied with those visits ? Or was he disappointed?"Lanscombe's eyes became remote, his old back stiffened. "I really could not say, sir.""I think you could, you know," said Mr. Entwhistle gently."It's not your place to say anything of that kind--that'swhat you really mean. But there are times when one has todo violence to one's sense of what is fitting. I was one of yourmaster's oldest friends. I cared for him very much. So didyou. That's why I'm asking you for your opinion as a man, not as a butler."69Lanscombe was s/lent for a moment, then he said /n acolourless voice:"Is there anything--wrong, sir ? 'jMr. Entwhistle replied truthfully."I don't know," he said. "I hope not. I would like tomake sure. Have you yourself felt that something was--wrong? '"Only since the funeral, sir. And I couldn't say exactlywhat it is. But Mrs. Leo and M-rs. Timothy, too, they didn,t,seem quite themselves that evening after the others had gone."You know the contents of the will ?""Yes, sir. Mrs. Leo thought I would like to know. Itseemed to me, if I may permit myself to comment, a very fair"Yes, it was a fair will. Equal benefits. But it is not, Ithink, the will that Mr. Abernethie orig/nally intended tomake after his son died. W/II you answer now the questionthat I asked you just now ?""As a matter of personal opinion""Yes, yes, that is understood.""The master, sir, was very much disappointed after Mr.George had been here Hehad hoped, I think, that Mr.Georgemight resemble Mr. Mortimer. Mr. George, if I may sayso, did not come up to standard. Miss Laura's husband wasalways considered unsatisfactory, and I'm afraid Mr.George took after him." Lanscombe paused and then wenton, "Then the young ladies came with their husbands. MissSusan he took to at once--a very sp;.rited and handsomevoun lady, but it's my opinion he couldn t abide her husband.Young ladies make funny choices nowadays, s ."And the other couple ?""I couldn't say much about that. A very pleasant andgood-looking young pa, ir. I think the master enjoyed havingthem here--but I don t think ." The old man hesitated. "Yes, Lanscombe ?""Well, the master had never had much truck with thestage. He said to me one day, 'I can't understand whyanyone gets stage-struck. It's a foolish kind of life. Seemsto deprive people of what little sense they have. I don'tknow what it does to your moral sense. You certainly loseyour sense of proportion.' Of course he wasn't referringdirectly""No, no, I quite understand. Now after these visits,Mr. Abernethie himself went away--first to his brother, andafterwards to his sister Mrs. Lansquenet."?o"That I did not know, sir. I mean he mentioned to me thathe was going to Mr. Timothy and afterwards to SomethingSt. Mary.""That is right. Can you remember anything he said on hisreturn in regard to those visits ?"Lanscombe reflected."I really don't know--nothing direct. He was glad to beback. Travelling and staying in strange houses tired him verymuchmthat I do remember his saying.""Nothing else ? Nothing about either of them ?"Lanscombe frowned."The master used to--well, to murmur, if you get mymeaning--speaking to me and yet more to himself--hardlynoticing I was there--because he knew me so well." "Knew you and trusted you, yes.""But my recollection is very vague as to what he said--somethingabout he couldn't think what he'd done with hismoney--that was Mr. Timothy, I take it. And then he saidsomething about ' Women can be fools in ninety-nine differentways but be pretty shrewd in the hundredth. Oh yes, andhe said, ' You can only say what you really think to someoneof your own generation. They don't think you're fancyingthings as the younger ones do.' And later he said but Idon't know in what connectionm 'It's not very nice to haveto set traps for people, but I don't see what else I can do.'But I think it possible, sir, that he may have been thinkingof the second gardener--a question of the peaches beingtaken.But Mr. Entwhistle did not think that it was the secondgardener who had been in Richard Abernethie's mind. Aftera few more questions he let Lanscombe go and reflected onwhat he had learned. Nothing, really--nothing, that is, thathe had not deduced before. Yet there were suggestive points.It was not his sister-in-law, Maude, but his sister Cora ofwhom he had been thinking when he made the remark aboutwomen who were fools and yet shrewd. And it was to her hehad confided his "fancies." And he had spoken of settinga trap. For whom ?Mr. Entwhistle had meditated a good deal over how muchhe should tell Helen. In the end he decided to take her whollyinto his confidence.First he thanked her for sorting out Richard's things andfor making various household arrangements. The house hadbeen advertised for sale and there were one or two prospectivebuyers who would be shortly coming to look over it."Private buyers ?""I'm afraid not. The 1W.C.A. are considering it, andthere is a young people's club, and the Trustees of the JeffersonTrust are looking for a suitable place to house their Collection.""It seems sad that the house will not be lived in, but ofcourse it is not a practicable proposition nowadays.""I am going to ask you if it would be possible for you toremain here until the house is sold. Or would it be a greatinconvenience ?""No--actually it would suit me very well. I don't want togo to Cyprus until May, and I much prefer being here than tobeing in London as I had planned. I love this house, youknow; Leo loved it, and we were always happy when we werehere together.""There is another reason why I should be grateful if youwould stay on. There is a friend of mine, a man calledHercule Poirot--"Helen said sharply:"Hercule Poirot?Then youthink- ""You know of him ?""Yes. Some friends of mine but I imagined that he wasdead long ago.""He is very much alive. Not y,o, ung, of course.""No, he could hardly be young.She spoke mechanically. Her face was white and strained.She said with an effort:"You think--that Cora was right ? That Richard was-- murdered ?"Mr. Entwhistle unburdened himself. It was a pleasure tounburden himself to Helen with her clear calm mind.When he had finished she said:"One ought to feel it's fantastic--but one doesn't. Mandeand I, that night ater the funeral--it was in both our minds,I'm sure. Saying to ourselves what a silly woman Corawas--and yet being uneasy. And then--Cora was killed--and7I told myself it was'just coincidenceand of course it may be--butoh I if one can only be sure. It's all so difficult.""Yes, it's difficult. But Poirot is a man of great originalityand he has something really approaching genius. He understandsperfectly what we need--assurance that the wholething is a mare's nest.""And suppose it isn't ?""What makes you say that ?" asked Mr. Entwhistlesharply."I don't know. I've been uneasy... Not just about whatCora said that day--something else. Something that I feltat 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 don't knowwho or what... Oh that sounds absurd.--""Not at all. It is interesting--very interesting. You arenot a fool, Helen. If you noticed something, that somethinghas significance.""Yes, but I can't remember what it was. The more Ithink ""Don't think. That is the wrong way to bring anythingback. Let it go. Sooner or later it will flash into your mind.And when it does-let me know--at once."CHAPTER IXMiss G.cImST pulled her black felt hat down firmly on herhead and tucked in a wisp of grey hair. The inquest was setfor twelve o'clock and it was not quite twenty-past eleven.Her grey coat and skirt looked quite nice, she thought, andshe had bought herself a black blouse. She wished she couldhave been all in black, but that would have been far beyondher means. She looked round the small neat bedroom and atthe walls hung with representations of Brixham harbour,Cockington Forge, Anstey's Cove, Kyance Cove, Polflexanharbour, Babbacombe Bay, etc., all signed in a dashing way,Cora Lansquenet. Her eyes rested with particular fondnesson Polflexan harbour. On the chest of drawers a fadedotograph carefully framed represented the Willow Teashop.iss Gilchrist looked at it lovingly and sighed.73She was disturbed from her reverie by the sound of thedoor bell below."Dear me," murmured Miss Gilchrist," I wonder who-"She went out of her room and down the rather ricketystairs. The bell sounded again and there was a sharp knock.For some reason Miss Gilchrist felt nervous. For a momentor two her steps slowed up, then she went rather unwillinglyto the door, adjuring herself not to be so silly.A young woman dressed smartly in black and carrying asmall suitcase was standing on the step. She noticed thealarmed look on Miss Gilchrist's face and said quickly:"Miss Gilchrist ? I am Mrs. Lansquenet's niece---SusanBanks.""Oh dea, yes, of course. I didn't know. Do come in,Mrs. Banks. Mind the hall-stand--it sticks out a little. Inhere, yes. I didn't know you were coming down for theinquest. I'd have had something readymsome coffee orsomething."Susan Banks said briskly:"I don't want anything. I'm so sorry if I startled you.""Well, you know you lid, in a way. It's very silly of me.I'm not usually nervous. In fact I told the lawyer that Iasn't nervous, and that I wouldn't be nervous staying onhere alone, and really I'm not nervous. Only--perhaps it'sjust the inquest and and thinking of things, but I havebeen jumpy all this morning. Just about half an hour ago thebell rang and I could hardly bring myself to open the door--whichwas really very stupid and so unlikely that a murdererwould come back--and why should he ?--and actually it wasonly a nun, collecting for an orphanage--and I was so relievedI gave her two shillings although I'm of a Roman Catholicand indeed have no sympathy with the Roman Church andall these monks and nuns though I believe the Little Sistersof the Poor do r, eally do good work. But do please sit down,Mrs.--Mrs .."Banks.""Yes, of course, Banks. Did you come down by train ?""No, I drove down. The lane seemed so narrow I ran thecar on a little way and found a sort of old quarry I backedit into.""This lane is very narrow, but there's hardly ever anytraffic along here. It's rather a lonely road."Miss Gilchrist gave a little shiver as she said those lastwords.Susan Banks was looking round the room.74"Poor old Aunt Cora," she said. "She left what she had tome, you know.""Yes, I know. Mr. Entwhistle told me. I expect you'llbe glad of the furniture. You're newly married, I,understand,and furnishing is such an expense nowadays Mrs. Lansquenethad some very nice things."Susan did not agree. Cora had had no taste for the antique.The contents varied between "modernistic" pieces and the"arty" type."I shan't want any of the furniture," she said. "I'vegot my own, you know. I shall put it up for auction. Unless--is there any of it you would like ? I'd be very glad..."She stopped, a little embarrassed. But Miss Gilchrist wasnot at all embarrassed. She beamed."Now really, that's vry kind of you, Mrs. Banks--yes,very kind indeed. I really do appreciate it. But actually,you know, I have my own things. I put them in store in case--some day--I should need them. There axe some picturesmy father left too. I had a small tea-shop at one time, youknow--but then the war came---it was all very unfortunate.But I didn't sell up everything, because I did hope to havemy own little home ag, am one day, so I put the best things instore with my father s pictures and some relics of our o1home. But I would like very much, if you really wonldn tmind, to have that little painted tea table of dear Mrs.Lansq,uenet's. Such a pretty thing and we always had teaon it.'Susan, looking with a slight shudder at a small green tablepainted with large purple clematis, said quickly that shewould be delighted for Miss Gilchrist to have it., "Thank you wry much, Mrs. Banks. I feel a little greedy.Ive got all her beautiful pictures, you know, and a lovelyamethyst brooch, but I feelthat perhaps I ought to give thatback to you.""No, no, indeed.""You'll want to go through her things ? After the inquest,perhaps ?""I thought I'd stay here a couple of days, go throughthings, and clear everything up."Sleep here, you mean."Yes. Is there any difficulty ?""Oh no, Mrs. Banks, of course not. I'll put fresh sheetson,,my bed, and I can class down here on the couch quite wen." But there's Aunt Cora's room, isn't there ? I can sleep m that? '75"You--you wouldn't mind ?""You mean because she was murdered there ? Oh no, Iwouldn't mind. I'm very tou,g,h,, Miss Gilchrist. It's been--I mean--it's all right again ?Miss Gilchrist understood the question."Oh yes, Mrs. Banks. All the blankets sent away to thecleaners and Mrs. Panter and I scrubbed the whole room outthoroughly. And there are plenty of spare blankets. Butcome up and see for yourself."She led the way upstairs and Susan followed her.The room where Cora Lansquenet had died was clean andfresh and curiously devoid of any sinister atmosphere. Likethe sitting-room it contained a mixture of modern utility andelaborately painted furniture. It represented Cora's cheerfultasteless personality. Over the mantelpiece an oil paintingshowed a buxom young woman about to enter her bath.Susan gave a slight shudder as she looked at it and MissGilchrist said:"That was painted by Mrs. Lansquenet's husband. Thereare a lot of more of his pictures in the dining-room downstairs.""How terrible.""Well, I don't care very much for that style of paintingmyself--but Mrs. Lansquenet was very proud of her husbandas an artist and thought that his work was sadly unappreciated.''"Where are Aunt Cora's own pictures ?""In my room. Would you like to see them ?"Miss Gilchrist displayed her treasures proudly.Susan remarked that Aunt Cora seemed to have been fondof sea coast resorts."Oh yes. You see, she lived for many years with Mr.Lansquenet at a small fishing village in Brittany.Fishingboats,, are. alwa,s so picturesque, are they not ?.".Obwously, Susan murmured. A whole series of pmturepostcards could, she thought, have been made from CoraLansquenet's paintings which were faithful to detail and veryhighly coloured. They gave rise to the suspicion that theymight actually have been painted from picture postcards.But when she hazarded this opinion Miss Gilchrist wasindignant. Mrs. Lansquenet always painted from Nature lIndeed, once she had had a touch of the sun from reluctanceto leave a subject when the light was just right."Mrs. Lansquenet was a real artist," said Miss Gilclaristreproachfully.She glanced at her watch and Susan said quickly:76"Yes, we ought to start for the inquest. Is it far ? Shall I get the car ?"It was only five minutes' walk, Miss Gilchrist assured her.$o they set out toether on foot. Mr. Entwhistle, who hadcome down by train, met them and shepherded them into theVillage Hall.There seemed to be a large number of strangers present.The inquest was not sensational. There was evidence ofidentification of the deceased. Medical evidence as to thenature of the wounds that had killed her. There were no signsof a struggle. Deceased was probably under a narcotic at thetime she was attacked and would have been taken quiteunawares. Death was unlikely to have occurred later thanfour-thirty. Between two and four-thirty was the nearestapproximation. Miss Gilchrist testified to finding the body.A police constable and Inspector Morton gave their evidence.The Coroner summed up briefly. The jury made no bonesabout the verdict, "Murder by some person or persons unknown."It was over. They came out again into the sunlight. Halfa dozen cameras clicked. Mr. Entwhistle shepherded Susanand Miss Gilchrist into the King's Arms, where he had takenthe precaution to arrange for lunch to be served in a privateroom behind the bar."Not a very good lunch, I am afraid," he said apologetically.But the lunch was not at all bad. Miss Gilchrist sniffeda little and murmured that "it was all so dreadful," butcheered up and tackled the Irish stew with appetite afterMr. Entwhistle had insisted on her drinking a glass of sherry.He said to Susan:"I'd no idea you were coming down to-day, Susan. Wecould have come together.""I know I said I wouldn't. But it seemed rather meanfor none of the family to be there. I rang up George but hesaid he was very busy and couldn't possibly make it, andRosamund had an audition and Uncle Timothy, of course, isa crock. So it had to be me.""Your husband didn't come with you ?""Greg had to settle up with his tiresome shop."Seeing a startled look in Miss Gilchrist's eye, Susan said: "My husband works in a chemist's shop."A husband in retail trade did not quite square with MissGilchrist's impression of Susan's smartness, but she saidvaliantly: "Oh yes, just like Keats.""Greg's no poet," said Susan.She added:"We've got great plans for the futurea double-barrelledestablishment--Cosmetics and Beauty parlour and alaboratoryfor special preparations",o That will be much racer, sad Mxss Gilchrist approwngly.Something like Elizabeth Arden who is really a Countess,so I have been told--or is that Helena Rubinstein ? In anycase," she added kindly, "a pharmacist's is not in the leastlike an ordinary shop--a draper, for instance, or a grocer.""You kept a tea-shop, you said, didn't you ?""Yes, indeed," Miss Gilchrist's face lit up. That theWillow Tree had ever been "trade" in the sense that a shopwas trade, would never have occurred to her. To keep a teashopwas in her mind the essence of gentility. She startedtelling Susan about the Willow Tree.Mr. Entwhistle, who had heard about it before, let his minddrift to other matters. When Susan had spoken to him twicewithout his answering he hurriedly apologised."Forgive me, my dear, I was thinking, as a matter of fact,about your Uncle Timothy. I am a little worried.""About Uncle Timothy ? I shouldn't be. I don't believereally there's anything the matter with him. He's just ahypochondriac.""Yes--yes, you may be right. I confess it was not hisheth that was worrying me. It's Mrs. Timothy. A,pparentlyshe s fallen downstairs and twisted her ankle. She s laid upand your uncle is in a terrible state.""Because he'll have to look after her instead of the otherway about ? Do him a lot of good," said Susan."Yes--yes, I dare say. But will your poor aunt get any .looking after ? That is really the question. Withno servantsm the house.""Life is really hell for elderly peolle," said Susan "Theylive in a kind of Georgian Manor house, don t they ?"Mr. Entwhistle nodded.They came rather warily out of the King's Arms, but thePress seemed to have dispersed.A couple of reporters were lying in wait for Susan by thecottage door. Shepherded by Mr. Entwhistle she said a fewnecessary and non-committal words. Then she and MissGilchrist went into the cottage and Mr. Entwhistle returnedto the King's Arms where he had booked a room. The funeralwas to be on the following day.. My. car s still m the quarry, saad Susan. I d forgottenabout t. I'll drive it along to the village later."Miss Gilchrist said anxiously:78"Not too late. You won't go out after dark, will you ? 'Susan looked at her and laughed."You don't think there's a murderer still hanging about,do you ?""No--no, I suppose not." Miss Gilchrist looked embarrassed."But it's exactly what she does think," thought Susan."How amazing I"Miss Gilchrist had vanished towards the kitchen."I'm sure you'd like tea early. In about half an hour,do you think, Mrs. Banks ?"Susan thought that tea at half-past three was overdoingit, but she was charitable enough to realise that "a nice cupof tea" was Miss Gilchrist's idea of restoration for the nervesand she had her own reasons for wishing to please Miss Gilchrist,so she said:"Whenever yon like, Miss Gilchrist."A happy clatter of kitchen implements began and Susanwent into the sitting-room. She had only been there a fewminutes when the bell sounded and was succeeded by a veryprecise little rat-tat-tat.Susan came out into the hall and Miss Gilchrist appearedat the kitchen door wearing an apron and wiping floury handson it."Oh dear, who do you think that can be ?""More reporters, I expect," said Susan."Oh dear, how annoying for you, Mrs. Banks.""Oh well, never mind, I'll attend to it.""I was just going to make a few scones for tea."Susan went towards the front door and Miss Gilchristhovered uncertainly. Susan wondered whether she thoughta man with a hatchet was waiting outside.The visitor, however proved to be an elderly gentlemanwho raised his hat when Susan opened the door and said,beaming at her in avuncular style."Mrs. Banks, I think ?" "Yes.""My name is Guthrie--Alexander Guthrie. I was a friend--a very old friend, of Mrs. Lansquenet's. You, I think, axeher niece, formerly Miss Susan Abernethie ?""That's quite right.""Then since we know who we are, I may come in ?" "Of course."Mr. Guthrie wiped his feet carefully on the mat, steppedinside, divested himself of his overcoat, laid it down with his79hat on a small oak chest anc1 flod Susan into the sitting.room"This is a melancholy cOCcsi0," said Mr. Guthrie, to.wh.o.m melancholy did not ,sm t0come naturally, his owninclination being to beam. ' es, avery melancholy occasion. I was in this part of the worlld adl felt theleast I could doas to attend the inquest--a?nd of,ourse the funeral. Poorora--poor foolish Cora. I na. we own her, my dear Mrs.B. anks, since the early days ocr. her, arriae. A high-spiritedglr!--and she took art very seriOUSly-took Pierre Lansquenets.e. no,u, sly, too--as an artist, I : ean. fill things considered hedldn t make her too bad a hu and. He strayed, if you knowwhat I mean, yes, he strayeclbutortunately Cora took itas part of the artistic tempeamem. He was an artist andtherefore immor! In fact I'm not sure she didn't gofurther: he was immoral and therefore he must be an artist INo kind of sense in artistic cnatte, poor Cora--though inother ways, mind you, Cora ad a lot of sense--yes, a surprisinglot of sense.""That's what everybody sems to say," said Susan. "Xdidn't really know her.""No, no, cut herself off fror her family because they didn'tappreciate her precious Pierre. e was never a pretty ffirlbut she had something. She w's goo company 1 You neverknew what she'd say next and[ you ever knew if her naivetd was-genuine or whether she xsrs, doiag itdeliberatel.y,,. Shemad.e us all laugh a good deal. ne ,eternal child--that s whatwe always felt about her. Anciny the last time I saw her(I have seen her from time to titm ncc Pierre died) she struckme as still behaving very muclx like a child"Susan offered Mr. Guth' rie a cigarette, but he old gentlemanshook his head."No thank you, my dear. I doa't smoke. You mustwonder why I've come ? To t11 y.ou the truth I was feelingrather conscience-stricken. I pfamSe Cora to come and seeher, some weeks ag,o. I usually.,ca d upon her once a year,anct just lately she d taken up ,ne n0bby of buying picturesat local sales, and wanted me o look at some of them. Myprofe, ssion is that of art critic, you know. Of course most ofCora s purchases were horrible daubs, but take it all in all,it is.,n't such a bad speculation, l,ictures go for next to nothingtrese country sales and the -rames alone are worth more a,.you, pay for the picture, la.tur?lly any important sales attenced by dealers and one sn t likely to get hold ofmasterpieces. But only the other dy, a small Cuyp was80knocked down for a few pounds at a farmhouse sale. Thehistory of it was quit.e, int,ere?ting. It had been given to anold nurse by the mmuy sne rand served faithfully for manylears--they had no idea of it:s value. Old nurse gave it toarmer nephew who liked the horse in it but thought it wasa dirty old thing I Yes, yes, t:hese things sometimes happen,and Cora was convinced that she had an eye for pictures.She hadn't, of course. Wantmd me to come and look at aRembrandt she had picked the last year. A Rembrandt lNot even a respectable copy of! ne I But she had got hold ofa quite nice Bartolozzi englravingamp spotted unfortunately.I sold it for her fo,r thirty pounds and of coursethat spurred her on. She wrote to me with great gusto aboutan Italian Primitive she had[ bought at some sale and Ipromised I'd come along and See it.""That's it over there, I ex[oect," said Susan, gesturing tothe wall behind him.Mr. Guthrie got up, put on a pair of spectacles, and wentover to study the picture."Poor dear Cora," he said a.t last."There are a lot more," said Susan.Mr. Guthrie proceeded to a leisurely inspection of the arttreasures acquired by the hoDeful l[rs. Lansquenet. Occasionallyhe said, "Tchk, Tchk," occasionally he sighed.Finally he removed his spectacles."Dirt," he said, "is a won`derful thing, Mrs. Banks I Itgives a patina of romance to the most horrible examples of thepainter's art. I'm afraid that Bartolozzi was beginner's luck.Poor Cora. Still it gave her a,n interest in life. I am reallythankful that I did not have to disillusion her.""There are some pictures in, the dining-room," said Susan,"but I think they are all her husband's work."Mr. Guthrie shuddered slightly and held up a protestinghand."Do not force me to look at those again. Life classes havemuch to answer for I I alwaya tried to spare Cora's feelings.A devoted wife--a very devoted wife. Well, dear Mrs. Banks,I must not take up more of yaur time.""Oh, do stay and have some tea. I think it's nearly ready.""That is very kind of you." Mr. Guthrie sat down againpromptly."I'll just go and see."In the kitchen, Miss Gilchrit was just lifting a last batchof scones from the oven. The tea-tray stood ready and thekettle was just gently rattling its lid.8"There's a Mr. Guthrie here, and I've asked him to stay fortea.""Mr. Guthrie ? Oh, yes, he was a great friend of dearMrs. Lansquenet's. He's the celebrated art critic. Howfortunate; I've made a nice lot of scones and that's somehome-made strawberry jam, and I just whipped up some littledrop cakes. I'll just make the tea--I've warmed the pot. Oh,please, Mrs. Banks, don't carry that heavy tray. I canmanage everything."However, Susan took in the tray and Miss Gilchrist followedwith teapot and kettle, greeted Mr. Guthrie, and they set to."Hot scones, that is a treat," said Mr. Guthrie, "and whatdelicious jam I Really, the stuff one buys nowadays."Miss Gilchrist was flushed and delighted. The little cakeswere excellent and so were the scones, and everyone did justiceto them. The ghost of the Willow Tree hung over the party.Here, it was clear, Miss Gilchrist was in her element."Well, thank you, perhaps I will," said Mr. Guthrie as heaccepted the last cake, pressed upon him by Miss Gilchrist. "I do feel rather guilty, though---enjoyingmy tea here, wherepoor Cora was so brutally murdered."Miss Gilchrist displayed an unexpected Victoia reactionto this."Oh, but Mrs. Lansquenet would have wished you to takea good tea. You've got to keep your strength up.""Yes, yes, perhaps you are right. The fact is, you know,that one cannot really bring oneself to believe that someoneyou knew--actually knew--can have been murdered I" "I agree," said Susan. "It just seems--fantastic.""And certainly not by some casual tramp who broke inand attacked her. I can imagine, 3,}ou know, reasons whyCora might have been murderedSusan said quickly, "Can you ? What reasons ?" "Well, she wasn't discreet," said Mr. Guthrie. "Corawasnever discreet. And she enjoyed--how shaw I put it--showinghow sharp she could be ? Like a child who s got hold of somebody's secret. If Cora got hold of a secretshe'd want to talkabout it. Even if she promised not to, she'd still do it. Shewouldn't be able to help herself."Susan did not speak. Miss Gilchrist did not either. Shelooked worried. /lr. Guthrie went on:"Yes, a little dose of arsenic in a cup of tea--that wouldnot have surprised me, or a box of chocolates by post. Butsordid robbery and assault--that seems highly incongruous.I may be wrong but I should have thought she had very littleto take that would be worth a burglar's while. She didn'tkeep much money in the house, did she ?"Miss Gilchrist said, "Very little."Mr. Guthrie sighed and rose to his feet."Ah! well, there's a lot of lawlessness about since thewar. Times have changed."Thanking them for the tea he took a polite farewell of the twowomen. Miss Gilchrist saw him out and helped him on withhis overcoat. From the window of the sitting-room, Susanwatched him trot briskly down the front path to the gate.Miss Gilchrist came back into the room with a small parcelin her hand."The postman must have been while we were at the inquest.He pushed it through the letter-box and it had fallen in thecorner behind the door. Now I wonder--why, of course, itmust be wedding cake."Happily Miss Gilchrist ripped off the paper. Inside was asmall white box tied with silver ribbon."It is I" She pulled off the ribbon, inside was a modestwedge of rich cake with almond paste and white icing. "Hownice I Now who "She consulted the card attached. ".John and Mary. Now who can that be? How sillyto put noSusan, rousing herself from contemplation, said vaguely:"It's quite difficult sometimes with people just usingChristian names. I got a postcard the other day signed Joan.I counted up I knew eight Joans--and with telephoning somuch, one often doesn't know their handwriting."Miss Gilchrist was happily going over the possible Johnsor Marys of her acquaintance."It might be Dorothy's daughter--her name was Mary,but I hadn't heard of an engagement, still less of a marriage.Then there's little John Banfield--I suppose he's grown up andold enough to be married--or the Erdield girl--no, her namewas Margaret. No address or anything. Oh well, I dare sayit will come to me..."She picked up the tray and went out to the kitchen.Susan roused herself and said:"Well--I suppose I'd better go and put the car somewhere."83CHAPTER XSusASTmEVrI) the car from the quarry where she had leftit and drove it into the village. There was a petrol pump butno garage and she was advised to take it to the King's Arms.They had room for it there and she left it by a big Daintierwhich was preparing to go out. It was chauffeur driven andinside it, very much muffled up, was an elderly foreign gentlemanwith a large moustache.The boy to whom Susan was talking about the car wasstming at her with such rapt attention the he did not seem tobe taking in half of what she said.Finall,y he said in an aw, e-stricke, n voice:"You re her niece, aren t you ? ,, Vrhat ? ,,"You're the victim's niece," the boy repeated with relish.i Oh--yes--yes, I am."Ar 1 Wondered where d seen you before.""Ghoul," thought Susan as she retraced her steps to thecottage.Miss Gilchrist greeted her with:"Oh, you're safely back," in tones of relief which furtherannoyed her. Miss Gilchrist added anxiously:"You can eat spaghetti, can't you ? I thought for tonight----""Oh yes, anything. I don't want much.""I really flatter myself that I can make a very tastyspaghetti aw gratin."The boast was not an idle one. Miss Gilchrist, Susanreflected, was really an excellent cook. Susan offered to helpwash up but Miss Gilchrist, though clearly gratified by theoffer, assured Susan that there was very little to do.She came in a little while later with coffee. The coffeewas less excellent, being decidedly weak. Miss Gilchristoffered Susan a piece of the wedding cake which Susan refused."It's really very good cake," Miss Gilchrist insisted, tastingit. She had settled to her own satisfaction that it must havebeen sent by someone whom she alluded to as "dear Ellen'sdaughter who I know was engaged to be married but I can'tremember her name."Susan let Miss Gilchrist chirrup away into silence beforestarting her own subject of conversation. This moment, aftersupper, sitting before the fire, was a companionable one.84She said at last:"My Uncle Richard came down here before he died, didn'the?""Yes, he did.""When was that exactly ?""Let me see--it must have been one, two--nearly threeweeks before his death was announced.""Did he seem--ill ?""Well, no, I wouldn't say he seemed exactly ill. lie had avery hearty vigorous manner. Mrs. Lansquenet was verysurprised to see him. She said, ' Well, really, Richard, afterall these years l' And he said, 'I came to see for myselfexactly how things are with you.' And Mrs. Lansquenetsaid, ' I'm all right.' I think, you know, she was a teeny bitoffended by his turning up so casually--after the long break.Anyway Mr. Abernethie said, ' No use keeping up old griev-ances.You and I and Timothy are the only ones left--andnobody can talk to Timothy except about his own health.'And he sad, Perre seems to have. made yo happy, so tseems I was in the wrong. There, will that content you ? 'Very nicely he said it. A handsome man, though elderly, ofcourse.""How long was he here ?""He stayed for lunch. Beef olives, I made. Fortunatelyit was the day the butcher called."Miss Gilchrist's memory seemed to be alraost whollyculinary."They seemed to be getting on well together ?""Oh, yes."Susa paused and then said:"Was Aunt Cora surprised when--he died ?""Oh yes, it was quite sudden, wasn't it ?""Yes, it was sudden... I meant--she was su,.rprised. Hehadn't given her any indication how ill he was.'"Oh--I see what you mean." Miss Gilchrist paused amoment. "No, no, I think perhaps you are right. She didsay that he had got very old--I think she said senile...""But you didn't think he was senile ?""Well, not to look at. But I didn't talk to him much,naturally I left them alone together."Susan looked at Miss Gilchrist speculatively. Was MissGilchrist the kind of woman who listened at doors ? Shewas honest, Susan felt sure, she wouldn't ever pilfer, or cheatover the housekeeping, or open letters. But inquisitivenesscan drape itself in a mantle of rectitude. Miss Gilhrist might85have found it necessary to garden near an open window, or todust the hall... That would be within the permittedlengths. And then, of course, she could not have helpedhearing someth, ing..."You didn t hear 'any of their conversation ? ' Susan asked.Too abrupt. Miss Gfichrist flushed angrily."No, indeed, Mrs. Banks. It has never been my custom tolisten at doors I"That means she does, thought Susan, otherwise she'd justsay "No."Aloud she said: "I'm so sorry, Miss Gilchrist. I didn't mean it that way. But sometimes, in these smallflimsilybuilt cottages, one simply can't help hearing nearly everythingthat goes on, and now that they are both dead, it's reallyrather important to the fam,y to know just what was said atthat meeting between them.'The cottage was anything but flimsily built--it dated froma sturdier era of building, but Miss Gilchrist accepted the bait,and rose to the suggestion held. out."Of course what you say is quite true, Mrs. Banks---this is a very small place and I do appreciate thatyu wouldwant to know what passed between them, but really I m afraidI can't help v,e? much. I think they were talking aboutMr. Abernethie s health--and certain--well, fandes he had.He didn't look it, but he must have been a sick man and as is so often the case, he put his ill-health downtos/e. A common symptom, I believe. My aunt"Miss Gilchrist described her aunt.Susan, like Mr. Entwhistle, side-tracked the aunt."Yes," she said. "That is just what we thought. Myuncle's servants were all very attached to him and naturallythey are upset by his thinking" She paused."Oh, of course I Servants are vy touchy, about anythingof that kind. I remember that my auntAgain Susan interrupted."It was the servants he suspected, I suppose ? Of poisoninghim, I mean ?""I don't know... I--really"Susan noted her confusion."It wasn't the servants. Was it one particular person ? '"I don't know, Mrs. Banks. Really I don't know"But her eye avoided Susan's. Susan thought to herself thatMiss Gilchrist knew more than she was willing to admit.It was possible that Miss Gilchrist knew a good deal . . .86Deciding not to press the point for the moment, Susan said:"What are your own plans for the future, Miss Gilchrist ?""Well, really, I was going to speak to you about that,Mrs. Banks. I told Mr. Entwhistle I would be willing to stayon until everything here was cleared up.""I know. I'm very grateful.""And I wanted to ask you how long that was likely to be,because, of course, I must start looking about for anotherpost."Susan considered."There's really not very much to be done .h. ere: In acouple of days I can get things sorted and notiiy the aucotioneer.""You have decided to sell up everything, then ?""Yes. I don't suppose there will be any difficulty inletting the cottage ?""Oh, no--people will queue up for it, I'm sure. There areso,!ew co,ttages to rent. One nearly ,ways has to buy."So it s all very simple, you see. Susan hesitated amoment before sa'ying, "I wanted to tell you--that I hopeyou'll accept three months' salary.""That's very generous of you, I'm sure, Mrs. Banks. I doappreciate it. And you would be prepared to--I mean Icould ask youmif necessarymto--to recommend me ? Tosay that I had been with a relation of yours and that I had--proved satisfact,o, ry ?""Oh, of course."I don't know whether I ought to ask it." Miss Gilchrist'shands began to shake and she tried fo steady her voice. "Butwould it be possible not to--to mention the circumstances--or even the nam ?"Susan stared."I don't understand.""That's because you, haven't thought, Mrs. Ba. nks. It'smurder. A murder that s been in the papers and that every-bodyhas read about. Don't you see ? People might think.' Two women living together, and one of them is killed--andprhaps the companion did it.' Don't you see, Mrs. Banks ?I'm sure that if I was looking for someone, I'dwell, I'dthink twice before engaging myself--if you understand whatI mean. Because one never knows I It's been worrying medreadfully, Mrs. Banks; I've been lying awake at nightthinking that perhaps I'll never get another jobnot of thiskind. And what else is there that I can do ?"The question came out with unconscious pathos. Susan87felt suddenly stricken. She ealised the desperation of thispleasant-spoken commonplace woman who was dependent forexistence on the fears and whims of emiloyers. And therewas a lot of truth in what Miss Gilchrist had said. Youwouldn't, if you could help it, engage a woman to sharedomestic intimacy who had figured, however innocently, in a murder case.Susan said: "But if they find the man who did it" "Oh thn, of course, it will be quite all right. But willthey find him ? I don't think, myself, the police have the/st da. And if he's of caught--well, that leaves me as--asnot quite the most likely person, but as a person who could have done it."Susan nodded thoughtfully. It was true that Miss Gfichristdid not benefit from Cora Lansquenet's death but who wasto know that ? And besides, there were so many tales--uglytales-of animOSity arising between women who lived to-ether--strange pathological motives for sudden violence.omeone who had not known them might imagine that CoraLansquenet and Miss Gilchrist had lived on those terms ....Susan spoke with her usual decision."Don't worry, Miss Gilchrist," she said, speaking brisklyand cheerfully. "I'm sure I can find you a post amongst myfri,e,ns. There,won't be the least difficulty."' I m afraid, said Miss Gfichrist, regaining some of hercustomary manner, "that I couldn't undertake any really,rough work. Just a little plain cooking and housework----Thetelephone rang and Miss Gilchrist jumped."Dear me, I wonder who that can be.""I expect it's my husband," said Susan, jumping up. "Hesaid he'd ring me tonight."She went to the telephone."Yes ?--yes, this is Mrs. Banks speaking personally..."There was a pause and then her voice changed. It became softand warm. "Hallo, darling--yes, it's me... Oh, quite well... Murder by someone unknown.., the usual thing...Only Mr. Entwhistle... Vrhat ? . . . it's difficult to say, butI think so... Yes, just as we thought... Absolutely accordingto plan... I shall sell the stuff. There's nothingwant... Not for a day or two... Absolutely frightful...Don't fuss. I know what I'm doing... Greg, you didn't...You were careful to... No, it's nothing. Nothing at all.Good night, darling."She rang off. The nearness of Miss Gilchrist had hamperedher a little. Miss Gfichrist could probably hear from the88kitchen, where she had tactfully retired, exactly what wenton. There were things she had wanted to ask Greg, but shehadn't liked to.She stood .by the telephone, frowning abstractedly. Thensuddenly an idea came to her."Of course," she murmured. "Just the thing."Lifting the receiver she asked for Trunk Enquiry.Some quarter of an hour later a weary voice from theexchange was saying:"I'm afraid there's no reply.""Please go on ringing them."Susan spoke autocratically. She lstened to the far offbuzzing of a telephone bell. Then, suddenly it was interruptedand a man's voice, peevish and slightly indignant, said:"Yes, yes, what is it ?""Uncle Timothy ?""What's that ? I can't hear you.""Uncle Timothy ? I'm Susan Banks.""Susan who ?""Banks. Formerly Abernethie. Your niece Susan.""Oh, you're Susan, are you ? What's the matter ? Whatare you ringing up for at this time of night ?""It's quite early still.""It isn't. I was in bed.""You must go to bed very early. How's Aunt Maude ?""Is that all you rang ,u.p to ask ? Your aunt's in a go,o?deal of pain and she can t do a thing. Not a thing. She shelpless. We're in a nice mess, I can tell you. That fool ofa doctor says he can't even get a nurse. He wanted to cartMaude off to hospital. I stood out against that. He's tryingto get hold of someone for us. I can't do anything--I daren'teven try. There's a fool from the village staying in thehouse to-night but she's murmuring about getting back toher husband. Don't know w/t we're going to do.""That's what I rang up about. Would you like MissGilchrist ?""Who's she ? Never heard of her.""Aunt Cora's companion. She's very nice and capable.""Can she cook ?""Yes, she cooks very well, and she could look after AuntMaude.""That's all very well, but when could she come ? Here Iam, all on my own, with only these idiots of village womenIopping in and out at odd hours, and it's not good for me.y eart s playing me up.89"I'll arrange for her to get off to you as soon as possible.The day after to-morrow, perhaps ?""Well, thanks very much," said the voice rather grudgingly."You're a good girl, Susan--er--thank you."Susan rang off and went into the kitchen."Would you be willing to go up to Yorkshire and look aftermy aunt ? She fell and broke her ankle and my uncle is quiteuseless. He's a bit of a pest but Aunt Maude is a very goodsort. They have help in from the village, but you could cookand look after Aunt Maude."Miss Gilchrist dropped the coffee pot in her agitation. "Oh, thank you, thank you--that really is kind. IthinkI can say of myself that I am really good in the sickroom, andI'm sure I can manage your uncle and cook him nice littlemeals. It's really very kind of you, Mrs. Banks, and I do appreciate it."CHAPTER XISJsAN rA in bed and waited for sleep to come. It had beena long day and she was tired. She had been quite sure that shewould go to sleep at once. She never had any ditticulty ingoing to sleep. And yet here she lay, hour after hour, wideawake, her mind racing.She had said she did not, mind sleeping in this room, in thisbed. This bed where Cora Abernethie---No, no, she must put all that out of her mind. She hadalways prided herself' on having no nerves. Why think ofthat afternoon less than a week ago ? Think ahead thefuture. Her future and Greg's. Those premises in CardiganStreet--just what they wanted. The business on the groundfloor and a charming flat upstairs. The room out at the backa laboratory for Greg. For purposes of income tax it wouldbe an excellent set-up. Greg would get calm and well again.There would be no more of those alarming brainstorms.The times when he looked at her without seeming to knowwho she was. Once or twice she'd been quite frightened...And old Mr. Cole--he'd hinted--threatened: "If thishappens again..." And it might have happened again it would have happened again. If Uncle Richardhadn't diedjust when he did...Uncle Richard--but really why look at it like that ? He'dnothing to live for. Old and tired and ill. His son dead.90It was a mercy really. To die i his sleep quietly like that.Quietly... in his sleepIfonly she could sleep. Itwasso stupid lying awake hour after hour.., hearing thefurniturecreak, and the rustling of trees and bushes outsidethewindow and the occasional queer melancholy hoot--anowl,she supposed. How sinister the country was, somehow.Sodifferent from the big noisy indifferent town. One felt sosafethere--surrounded by people--never alone. Whereashere...Houseswhere a murder had been committed were sometimeshaunted.Perhaps this cottage would come to be known asthehaunted cottage. Haunted by the spirit of Cora Lansquenet...Aunt Cora. Odd, really, how ever since she hadarrivedshe had felt as though Aunt Cora were quite close toher..,within reach. All nerves and fancy. Cora Lansquenetwasdead, to-morrow she would be buried. There was no oneinthe cottage except Susan herself and Miss Gilchrist. Thenwhydid she feel that there was someone in this room, someoneclosebeside her...Shehad lain on this bed when the hatchet fellLyingtheretrustinglyasleep... Kowing nothing till the hatchetfell... And now she wonldn t let Susan sleep ....The furniture creaked again.., was that a stealthy step ?Susan switched on the light. Nothing. Nerves, nothing butnerves. Relax... close your eyes...Surely that was a groan--a groan or a faint moan...So,,meone in pain--someone dying...I mustn't imagine things, I nstn't, I mustn't," Susanwhispered to herself.Death was the end--there was no existence after death.Under no circumstances could anyone come back. Or wasshe reliving a scene from the past--a dying woman groaning ....There it was again.., stronger.., someone groaning inacute pain...But--this was real. Once again Susan switched on thelight, sat up in bed and listened. The groans were real groansand she was hearing them through the wall. They came fromthe room next door.Susan jumped out of bed, flung on a dressing-gown andcrossed to the door. She went out on to the landing, tappedfor a moment on Miss Gilchrist's door and then went in. MissGilchrist's light was on. She was sitting up in bed.Shelooked ghastly. Her face was distorted with pain.Mss Gilchrist, what s the matter. Are you ill ?"Yes. I don't know what--I--" she tried to get out of9bed, was seized with a fit of vomiting and then collapsed backon the pillows.She murmured: ,Please---ring up doctor. Must haveeaten something ...."I'll get you some bicarbonate. We can get the doctor inthe morning if you're not better."Miss Gilchrist shook her head."No, get doctor now. I--I feel dreadful.""Do you know his number ? Or shall I look in the book ?"Miss Gilchrist gave her the number. She was interruptedby anoth, er fit of retching.Susan s call was answered by a sleepy male voice."Who ? Gilchrist ? In Mead's Lane. Yes, I know. I'llb fight along."He was as good as his word. Ten minutes later Susan heardhis car draw up outside and she went to open the door to him.She explained the case as she took him upstairs. "Ithink," she said, "she must have eaten something that dis-agreedwith her. But she seems pretty bad."The doctor had had the air of one keeping his temper inleash and who has had some experience of being called outunnecessarily on more than one occasion. But as soon as heexamined the moaning woman his manner changed. He gavevarious curt orders to Susan and presently came down andtelephoned. Then he joined Susan in the sitting-room."I've sent for an ambulance. Must get her into hospital.""She's really bad then ?""Yes. I've given her a shot o! morp,h, ia to ease the pain.But it looks" He broke off. ' What s she eaten ?""We had macaroni au gratin for supper and a custard pud-ding.Coffee afterwards.""You have the same things ?""Yes."' And you're all right ? No pain or discomfort ?""She's taken nothing else ? No tinned fish ? Or sausages?""No. We had lunch at the King's Arms--after theinquest.""Yes, of course. You're Mrs. Lansquenet's niece ?""Yes.""That was a nasty business.Hope they catch the manwho did it.""Yes, indeed."The ambulance came. Miss Gilchrist was taken away andthe doctor went with her. He told Susan he would ring her92up in the morning. When he had left she went upstairs to bed,This time she fell asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow2The funeral was well attended. Most of the village hadturned out. Susan and Mr. Entwhistle were the only mourners,but various wreaths had been sent by the other members ofthe family. Mr. Entwhistle asked where Miss Gilchrist was,and Susan explained the circumstances in a hurried whisper.Mr. Entwhistle raised his eyebrows."Rather an odd occurrence ?""Oh, she's better this morning. They rang up from thehospital. People do get these bilious turns. Some make morefuss than others."Mr. Entwhistle said no more. He was returning to Londonimmediately after the funeral.Susan went back to the cottage. She found some eggs andmade herself an omelette. Then she went up to Cora's roomand started to sort through the dead woman's things.She was interrupted by the arrival of the doctor.The doctor was looking worried. He replied to Susan'sinquiry by saying that Miss Gilchrist was much better."She'll be out and around in a couple of days," he said."But it was lucky I got called in so promptly. Otherwise---itmight have been ,a, near thing."Susan stared. Was she really so bad ?""Mrs. Banks, will you tell me again exactly what MissGilchrist had to eat and drink yesterday. Everything."Susan reflected and gave a meticulous account. The doctorshook his head in a dissatisfied manner."There must have been something she had and youdidn't ?""I don't think so... Cakes, scones, jam, tea--and thensupper. No, I can't remember anything."The doctor rubbed his nose. He walked up and down the room."Was it definitely something she ate ? Definitely foodpoisoning ?"The doctor threw her a sharp glance. Then he seemed tocome to a decision."It was arsenic," he said."Arsenic ?" Susan stared. "You mean somebody gaveher arsenic ?"93"That's what it looks like.""Could she have taken it herself ? Deliberately, I mean ?""Suicide ? She says not and she should know. Besides, ifshe wanted to commit suicide she wouldn't be likely to choosearsenic. There are sleeping pills in this house. She couldhave taken an overdose of them.""Could the arsenic have got into something by accident ?""That's what I'm wondering. It seems very unlikely, butsuch things have been known. But if you and she ate thesame things--"Susan nodded. She said, "It all seems impossible--"then she gave a sudden gasp. "Why, of course, the weddingcake I""What's that ? Wedding cake ?"Susan explained. The doctor listened with close attention."Odd. And you say she wasn't sure who sent,? ? Anyof it left ? Or is the box it came in lying around ?"I don't know. I'll look."They searched together and finally found the white cardboardbox with a few crumbs of cake still in it lying on thekitchen dresser. The doctor packed it away with some care."I'll take charge of this. Any idea where the wrappingpaper it came in might be ?"Here they were not successful and Susan said that it hadprobably gone into the Ideal boiler."You won't be leaving here just yet, lllrs. Banks ?"His tone was genial, but it made Susan feel a little uncomfortable."No, I have to .g,,o through my aunt's things. I shall behere for a few days"Good. You understand the police will probably want toask some questions. You don't know of anyone who--well,might have had it in for Miss Gilchrist ?"Susan shook her head."I don't really know much about her. She was with myaunt for some years--that's all I know.""Quite, quite. Always seemed a pleasant unassumingwoman--quite ordinary. Not the kind, you'd say, to haveenemies or anything melodramatic of that kind. Weddingcake through the post. Sounds like some jealous woman--butwho'd be jealous of Miss Gilchrist ? Doesn't seem to fit.""No.""Well, I must be on my way. I don't know what's hal>peningto us in quiet little Lytchett St. Mary. First a brutalmurder and now attempted poisoning through the post. Odd,the one following the other."He went down the path to his car. The cottage felt stuffyand Susan left th door standing open as she went slowlyupstairs to resume her task.Cora Lansquenet had not been a tidy or methodical woman.Her drawers held a miscellaneous assortment of things.There were toilet accessories and letters and old handkerchiefsand paint brushes mixed up together in one drawer. Therewere a few old letters and bills thrust in amongst a bulgingdrawer of underclothes. In another drawer under somewoollen jumpers was a cardboard box holding two falsefringes. There was another drawer full of old photographs andsketching books. Susan lingered over a group taken evidentlyat some French place many years ago and which showed ayounger, thinner Cora clinging to the arm of a tall lankyman with a straggling beard dressed in what seemed to bea velveteen coat and whom Susan took to be the late PierreLansquenet.The photographs interested Susan, but she laid them aside,sorted all the papers she had found into a heap and began togo through them methodically. About a quarter way throughshe came on a letter. She read it through twice and was stillstaring at it when a voice speaking behind her caused her togive a cry of alarm."And what may you have got hold of there, Susan ?Hallo, what's the matter ?"Susan reddened with annoyance. Her cry of alarm hadbeen quite involuntary and she felt ashamed and anxious toexplain."George ? How you startled me I"Her cousin smiled lazily. "So it seems.""How did you get here ?""Well, the door downstairs was open, so I walked in.There seemed to be nobody about on the ground floor, so Icame up here. If you mean how did I get to this part of theworld, I started down this morning to come to the funeral." "I didn't see you there ?""The old bus played me up. The petrol feed seemedchoked. I tinkered with it for some time and finally it seemedto clear itself. I was too late for the funeral by then, but Ithought I might as well come on down. I knew you werehere."He paused and then went on:95"I rang you up, as a matter of fact--and Greg told me you'dcome down to take possession, aa it were. I thought I mightgive you a hand."Susan said, "Aren't you needed in the office ? Or can youtake days off whenever you like ?""A funeral has always been a recognised excuse for absenteeism. And this funeral is indubitably genuine. Besides,a murder always fascinates people. Anyway, I shan't begoing much to the office in future--not now that I'm a man ofmeans. I shall have better things to do."He paused and grinned, "Same as Greg," he said.Susan looked at George thoughtfully. She had never seenmuch of this cousin of hers and when they did meet she hadalways found him rather difficult to make out.She asked," Why did y, ou really come down here, George ?"I m not sure t wasn t to do a little detect,ye work. I yebeen thinking a good deal about the last funeral we attended.Aunt Cora certainly threw a spanner into the works that day.I've wondered whether it was sheer irresponsibility and auntlyjoie de vivre that prompted her words, or whether she reallyhad something to go upon. What actually is in that letterthat you were reading so attentively when I came in ?"Susan said slowly, "It's a letter that Uncle Richard wroteto Cora after he'd been down here to see her."I-Iow very black George's eyes were. She'd thought of themas brown but they were black, and there was somethingcuriously impenetrable about black eyes. They concealedthe thoughts that lay behind them.George drawled slowl,y,, "Anything interesting in it ?""No, not exactly..."Can I see ?"She hesitated for a moment, then put the letter into hisoutstretched hand.I-Ie read it, skimming over the contents in a Low monotone."Glad to have seen you again after all these years.., lookingvery well.., had a good journey home and arrived back not tootired"Hiswice changed suddenly, sharpened:"Pleasedon't say anything to anyone about what I told you. Itmay be a mistake. Your loving brother, Richard."lielooked up at Susan. "What does that mean ?""It might mean anything... It might be just about hishealth. Or it might be some gossip about a mutual friend.""Ohyes,it might be a lot oi things. It isn't conclusivebut it's suggestive .... What did he tell Cora ? Does anyoneknow what he told her ?""Miss Gilchrist might know," said Susan thoughtfully."I think she listened.""Oh, yes, the Companion help. Where is she, by the way ?""In hospital, suffering from arsenic poisoning."George stared."You don't mean it ?""I do. Someone sent her some poisoned wedding cake."George sat down on one of the bedroom chairs and whistled."It looks," he said, "as though Uncle Richard was notmistaken."3On the following morning Inspector Morton called at thecottage.He was a quiet middle-aged man with a soft country burrin his voice. His manner was quiet and unhurried, but hiseyes were shrewd."You realise what this is about, Mrs. Banks ?" he said."Dr. Proctor has already told you about Miss Gilchrist. Thefew crumbs of wedding cake that he took from here have beenanalysed and show traces of arsenic.""So somebody deliberately wanted to poison her ?""That's what it looks like. Miss Gilchrist herself doesn'tseem able to help us. She keeps repeating that it's im-possible-thatnobody would do such a thing. But somebodydid. You can't throw any light on the matter ?"Susan shook her head."I'm simply dumbfounded," she said. "Can't you findou,t, anything from the postmark ? Or the handwriting ?"You'e forgotten--the wrapping paper was presumablyburnt. And there's a little doubt whether it came throughthe post at all. Young Andrews, the driver of the postal van,doesn't seem able to remember delivering it. He's got a biground, and he can't be sure--but there it is--there's a doubtabout it.""But--what's the alternative ?""The alternative, Mrs. Banks, is that an old piece oibrown paper was used that already had Miss Gilchrist's nameand address on it and a cancelled stamp, and that the packagewas pushed through the letter box or deposited inside thedoor by hand to create the impression that it had come bypost."a.r..97DHe added dispassionately:"It's quite a clever idea, you know, to choose weddingcake. Lonely middle-aged women are sentimental aboutwedding cake, pleased at having been remem-bered. .3, box.of sweets, or something of that kind might have awalrenea suspicion.Susan said slowly:"Miss Gilchrist speculated a good deal about who couldhave sent it, but she wasn't at all suspicious--as you say, shewas pleased and yes--flattered."She added: "Was there enough poison in it to--kill ?" "That's difficult to say until we get the quantitativeanalysis. It rather depends on whether Miss Gilchrist ate thewhole of the wedge. She seems to think that she didn't. Canyou remember ?""No--no, I'm not sure. She offered me some and I refusedand then she ate some and said it was a very good cake, butI don't remember if she finished it or not.""I'd like to,go upstairs if you don't mind, Mrs. Banks." "Of course.She followed him up to Miss Gilchrist's room. She saidapologetically:"I'm afraid it's in a rather disgusting state. But I didn'thave time to do anything about it with my aunt's..fune[and everything, and then after Dr. Proctor came I thouguperhaps I ought to leave it as it was.""That was very intelligent of you, Mrs. Banks. It's noteveryone who would have been so intelligent."He went to the bed and slipping his hand under the pillowraised it carefully. A slow smile spread over his face. "There you are," he said.A piece of wedding cake lay on the sheet looking somewhatthe worse for wear."How extraordinary," said Susan."Oh no, it's not. Perhaps your generation doesn't do it.Young lades no.w, adays mayn t se so much store on gettingmarried. But it s an old custom. Put a piece of weddingcake under your pillow and you'll dream of your futurehusband.""But surely Miss Gilchrist""-She didn't want to tell us about it because she felt foolishdoing such a thing at her age. But I had a notion that's whatit might be." His face sobered. "And if it hadn't beenfor an old maid's foolishness, Miss Gilchrist mightn't be alive today.""But who could have possibly wanted to kill her ?"His eyes met hers, a curious speculative look in them thatmade Susan feel uncomfortable."You don't know ? "he asked."No--of course I don't.""It seems then as though we shall have to find out," saidInspector Morton.CHAPTER XIITwo LDERLm sat together in a room whose furnishingswere of the most modern kind. There were no curves in theroom. Everything was square. Almost the only exceptionwas Hercule Poirot himself who was full of curves. Hisstomach was pleasantly rounded, his head resembled an eggin shape, and his moustaches curved upwards in a flamboyantflourish.He was sipping a glass of sirop and looking thoughtfully atMr. Goby.Mr. Goby was small and spare and shrunken. He had alwaysbeen refreshingly nondescript in appearance and he was nowso nondescript as practically not to be there at all. He wasnot looking at Poirot because Mr. Goby never looked atanybody.Such remarks as he was now making seemed to be addressedto the left-hand corner of the chrominm-plated fireplace curb.Mr. Goby was famous for the acquiring of information.Very few people knew about him and very few employed hisservices--but those few were usually extremely rich. Theyhad to be, for Mr. Goby was very expensive. His specialitywas the acquiring of information quickly. At the flick ofMr. Goby's double jointed thumb, hundreds of patient questioningplodding men and women, old and young, of allapparent stations in life, were despatched to question, andprobe, and achieve results.Mr. Goby had now practically retired from business. Buthe occasionally "obliged" a few old patrons. Hercule Poirotwas one of these.we got what I could for you, Mr. Gob told the fire curbin a soft confidential whisper. "I sent the boys out. They dowhat they can--good ladsgood lads all of them, but not whatthey used to be in the old days. They don't come that waynowadays. Not willing to learn, that's what it is. Think they99know everything after they've only been a couple of years onthe job. And they work to time. Shocking the way theywork to time."He shook his head sadly and shifted his gaze to an electricplug socket."It's the Government," he told it. "And all this educationracket. It gives them ideas. They come back and tell uswhat they think. They can't think, most of them, anyway.All they know is things out of books., That's ,n,o good in ourbusiness. Bring in the answers--that s all that s needed--nothinking."Mr. Goby flung himself back in his chair and winked at alampshade."Mustn't crab the Government, though! Don't knowreally what we'd do without it. I can tell you that nowadaysyou can walk in most anywhere with a notebook and pencil,dressed right, and speaking B.B.C., and ask people all themost intimate details of their daily lives and all their backhistory, and what they had for dinne on November 23rdbecause that was a test day for mid.qe-class incomes--orwhatever it happens to be (making it a grade above to butterthem up l)--ask 'em any mortal thing you can; and ninetimes out of ten they'll come across pat, and even the tenthtime though they may cut up rough, they won't doubt fora minute that you're what you say you are--and that theGovernment really wants to know--for some completelyunfathomable reason! I can tell you, M. Poirot," said Mr.Goby, still talking to the lampshade, "that it's the best linewe've ever had; much better than taking the electric meteror tracing a fault in the telephone--yes, or than calling asnuns, or the Girl Guides or the Boy Scouts asking for subscriptions--tho,ughwe use all those too. Yes, Government snoop,ing is God s gift to investigators and long may it continue IPoirot did not speak. Mr. Goby had grown a little garrulouswith advancing years, but he would come to the point in hisown good time."Ar," said Mr. Goby and took out a very scrubby littlenotebook. He licked his finger and flicked, over the pages. "Here we are. Mr. George Crossfield. We11 take him first.Just the plain facts. You won't want to know how I got them.He's been in Queer Street for quite a while now. Horses,mostly, and gambling---he's not a great one for women. Goesover to France now and then, and Monte too. Spends a lotof time at the Casino. Too downy to cash cheques there, butgets hold of a lot more money than his travelling 'allowance to0would account for. I didn't go into that, because it wasn'twhat you want to know. But he's not scrupulous aboutevading the law--and being a lawyer he knows how to do it.Some reason to believe that he's been using, trust fundsent.rp, sted, to him .to invest. Plunging pretty wildly of late--onme tock Exchange and on the gee-gees I Badjudgmentand bad luck. Been off his feed badly for three months.Worried, bad-tempered and irritable in the office. But sincehis uncle's death that's all changed. He's like the breakfasteg,g,s (if we had 'em). Sunny side up INow, as to particular information asked for. Statementthat he was at Hurst Park races on day in question almostcertainly untrue. Almost invariably places bets with one orother of two bookies on the course. They didn't see him thatday. Possible that he left Paddington by train for destinationunknown. Taxi-driver who took fare to Paddington madedoubtful identification of his photograph. But I wouldn'tba k on t. He s a IF common type--nothing outstandingabout him. -N,,o sui"with porters, etc., at Paddington.Certainly didn t arri/rF"at Cholsey Station--which is nearestfor Lytchett St. Mary. Small station, strangers noticeable.Could have got out at Reading and taken bus. Buses therecrowded, frequent and several routes go within a mile or soof Lytchett St. Mary as well as the bus service that goes rightinto the village. He wouldn't take that--not if he meantbusiness. All in all, he's a downy card. Wasn't seen inLytchett St. Mary but he needn't have been. Other ways ofapproach than through the village. Was in the OUDS atOxford, by the way. If he went to the cottage that day hemayn't have looked quite like the usual George Crossfield.I 11 ke,e,p, hm m my boo,k,, shall I ? There s a black marketangle I d like to play up."You may keep him in," said Hercnle Poirot.Mr. Goby licked his finger and turned another page of hisnotebook."Mr. Michael Shane. He's thought quite a lot of in theprofession. I-las an even better idea of himself than otherpeople have. Wants to star and wants to star quickly. Fondof money and doing himself well. Very attractive to women.They fall for him right and left. He's partial to them himself.nbU.t busine c.omes first, as you .might say. He's beenrang arouna vnth Sorrel Dainton Who was playing the leadm the last show he was in. He only had a minor part but madeuite a hit in i,t, and Miss Dainton's husband doesn't like him.is wife doesnt know about him and Miss Dainton. Doesn'tknow much about anything, it seems. Not much of an actressI gather, but easy on the eye. Crazy about her husband.Some rumour of a bust-up likely between them not long ago,but that seems out now. Out since/dr. Richard Abernethie'sdeath."Mr. Goby emphasised the last point by nodding his headsignificantly at a cushion on the sofa."On the day in question, Mr. Shane says he was meetinga Mr. Rosenheim and a Mr. Oscar Lewis to fix up some stagebusiness. He didn't meet them. Sent them a wire to say hewas terribly sorry he couldn't make it. What he did d,o wasto go to the Emeraldo Car people, who hire out driveyourself ' cars. He hired a car about twelve o'clock and droveaway in it. He returned it about six in the evening. Accordingto the speedometer it had been driven just about the rightnumber of miles for what we're after. No confirmation fromLytchett St. Mary. No strange car seems to have beenobserved there that day. Lots of places it could be leftunnoticed a mile or so away. And there's even a disusedquarry a few hundred yards down the lane from the cottage.Three market towns within walking distance where you canpark in side streets, without the olice bothering about you.All right, we keep Mr. Shane in ?"Most certainly.""Now Mrs. Shane." Mr. Goby rubbed his nose and toldhis left cuff about Mrs. Shane. "She says she was shopping.Just shopping..." Mr. Goby raised his eyes to the ceiling."Women who are shopping--just scatty, that's what theyare. And she'd heard she'd come into money the day before.Naturally there'd be no holding her. She has one or twocharge accounts but they're overdrawn and they've beenpressing ,h, er for payment and she didn't put any more on thesheet. It s quite on the cards that she went in here and thereand everywhere, trying on clothes, looking at iewellery,ricing this, that, and t, he other--and as likel,y, as not, notuying anything l She s easy to approach--I 11 say that.I had one of my young ladies who's knowledgeable on thetheatrical line do a hook up. Stopped by her table in arestaurant and exclaimed the way they do: "Darling, Ihaven't seen you since Way Down Under. You were tond,rflin that l Have you seen Hubert lately ?" That wasthe producer and Mrs. Shane was a bit of a flop in theplay--but that makes it go all the better. They're chattingtheatrical stuff at once, and, my girl throws the right namesabout, and then she says, I believe I caught a glimpse of102you at so and so, on so and so, giving the day--and mostladies fall for it and say, ' Oh no, I was ' whatever it maybe. But not Mrs. Shane. Just looks vacant and says, ' Oh,I dare say.' What can you do with a lady like that ?" Mr.Goby shook his head severely at the radiator."Nothing," said Hercule Poirot with feeling. "Do I nothave cause to know it ? Never shall I forget the killing ofLord Edgware. I was nearly defeated--yes, I, HerculePoirot--by the extremely simple cunning of a vacant brain.The very simple minded have often the genius to commit anuncomplicated crime and then leave it alone. Let us hopethat our murderer--if there is a murderer in this affair--isintelligent and superior and thoroughly pleased with himselfand unable to resist painting the Iffy. Enn--but continue"Once more Mr. Goby applied hirself this little book. '"Mr. and Mrs. Bankswho said they were at home all day. She wasn't, anyway I Went round to thegarage, got out hercar, and drove off in it about r o'clock. Destination unknown.'Back about five. Can't tell about mileage because she's hadit out every day since and it's been nobody's business tocheck."As to Mr. Banks, we've dug up something curious. Tobegin with, I'll mention that on the day in question we don'tknow what he did. He didn't go to work. Seems he'd alreadyasked for a couple of days off on account of the funeral.And since then he's chucked his job--with no considerationfor the firm. Nice, well-established small pharmacy it is.They're not too keen on Master Banks. Seems he used to getinto rather queer excitable states."Well, as I say, we don't know what he was doing on theday of Mrs. L.'s death. He didn't go with his wife. It could be that he stopped in their little flat all day.There's noporter there, and nobody knows whether tenants are in or out.But his back history is interesting. Up till about four monthsago--just before he met his wife, he was in a Mental Home.Not certified--just what the. y call a mental breakdown.Seems he made some slip up m dispensing a medicine. (Hewas working with a Mayfair firm then.) The woman recovered,and the firm were all over themselves apologising, and therewas no prosecution. After all, these accidental slips do occur,and most decent people are sorry for a Door voun chao who'sdone it--so long as there's no prmanei harm d)ne, t*hat is.The firm didn't sack him, but he resigned---said it had shakenhis nerve. But afterwards, it seems, he got into a very lowstate and told the doctor he was obsessed by guilt--that itIo3had all been deliberate--the woman had been overbearingand rude to him when she came into the shop, had complainedthat her last prescription had been badly made up--and thathe had resented this and had deliberately added a near lethaldose of some drug or other. He said ' She had to be punishedfor daring to speak to me like that l ' And then wept and saidhe was too wicked to live and a lot of things like that. Themedicos have a long word for that sort of thing--guilt complexor something--and don't believe it was deliberate at all, justcarelessness, but that he wanted to make it important andserious.""Fa se p,ut," said Hercule Poirot."Pardon ? Anyway, he went into this Sanitorium and theytreated him and discharged him as cured, and he met MissAbernethie as she was then. And he got a job in this respectablebut rather obscure little chemist's shop. Told them he'dbeen out of England for a year and a half, and gave them hisformer reference from some shop in Eastbourne. Nothingagainst him in that shop, but a fellow dispenser said he hada very queer temper and was odd in his manner sometimes.There's a story about a customer saying once as a joke, ' Wishyou'd sell me something to poison my wife, ha hal' AndBanks says to him, very soft and quiet: 'I could... Itwould cost you two hundred pounds.' The man felt uneasyand laughed it off. May have been all a i,oke, but it doesn'tseem to me that Banks is the joking kind."Mon ami," said Hercule Poirot. "It really mazes mehow you get your information I Medical and highly confidentialmost of it I"Mr. Goby's eyes swivelled right round the room and hemurmured, looking expectantly at the door, that there were ways ...."Now we come to the country department. Mr. and Mrs.Timothy Abernethie. Very nice place they've got, but sadlyneeding money spent on it. Very straitened they seem to be,very straitened. Taxation and unfortunate investments.Mr. Abernethie enjoys ill health and the emphasis is on theenjoyment. Complains a lot and has everyone running andfetching and carrying. Eats hearty meals, and seems quitestrong physically if he likes to make the effort. There's noone in the house after the daily woman goes and no one'sallowed into Mr. Abernethie's room unless he rings his bell.He was in a very bad temper the morning of the day afterthe funeral. Swore at Mrs. Jones. Ate only a little of hisbreakfast and said he wouldn't have any lunch--he'd had a badxo4night. He said the supper she had left out for him was unfit toeat and a good deal more. He was alone in the house and unseenby anybody from 9.30 that morning until the followingmorning.""And Mrs. Abernethie ?""She started off from Enderby by car at the time youmentioned. Arrived on foot at a small local garage in a placecalled Cathstone and explained her car had broken down acouple of miles away."A mechanic drove her out to it, made an investigation andsaid they'd have to tow it in and it would be a long job--couldn'tpromise to finish it that day. The lady was very putout, but went to a small inn, arranged to stay the night, andasked for some sandwiches as she said she'd like to see some~thing of the countryside--it's on the edge of the moorlandcountry. She didn't come back to the inn till quite late thatevening. My informant said he didn't wonder. It's a sordidlittle place I""And the times ?""She got the sandwiches at eleven. If she'd walked to themain road, a mile, she could have hitch-hiked into Wallcasterand caught a special South Coast express which stops atReading West. I won't go into details of buses etcetera. It could just have been done if you could makethe--er--attackfairly late in the afternoon."I understand the doctor stretched the time limit topossibly 4.30.""Mind you," said Mr. Goby," I shouldn't say it was likely.She seems to be a nice lady, liked by every,body.She'sdevoted to her husband, treats him like a child."Yes, yes, the maternal complex.""She's strong and hefty, chops the wood and often haulsin great baskets of logs. Pretty good with the inside of a car,tO0.""I was coming to that. What exactly was wrong with thecar ?""Do you want the exact details, M. Poirot ?""Heaven forbid. I have no mechanical knowledge.""It was a difficult thing to spot. And also to put right.And it could have been done maliciously by someone withoutvery much trouble. By someone who was familiar with theinsides of a car.""C'est magniique I" said Poirot with bitter enthusiasm.11 so convenient, all so possible. Bon deu, can we chromatenobody ? And Mrs. Leo Abernethie ?"xo5"She's a very nice lady, too. Mr. Abernethie deceased wasvery fond of her. She came there to stay about a fortnightbefore he died.""After he had been to Lytchett St. Mary to see his sister ?""No, just before. Her income is a good deal reduced sincethe war. She gave up her house in England and took a small flat in London. She has a villa in Cyprus andspends part ofthe year there. She has a young nephew whom she is helpingto educate, and there seems to be one or two, young artistswhom she helps financially from time to time. '"St. Helen of the blameless life," said Po[rot, shutting hiseyes. "And it was quite impossible for her to have leftEnderby that day without the servants knowing ? Say thatthat is so, I implore you I"Mr. Goby brought his glance acrdss to rest apologetically onPoirot's polished patent leather shoe, the nearest he had cometo a direct encounter, and murmured:"I'm afraid I can't say that, M. Poirot. Mrs. Abernethiewent to London to fetch some extra clothes and belongings asshe had agreed with Mr. Entwhistle to stay on and see tothings.""Il ne manquait que fa I" said Poirot with strong feeling.CHAPTER XIIIWEN TIE CAR) of Inspector Morton of the Berkshire CountyPolice was brought to Hercule Poirot, his eyebrows went up."Show him in, Georges, show him in. And bring--what isit that the police prefer ?""I would suggest beer, sir.""How horrible I But how British. Bring beer, then."Inspector Morton came straight to the point."I had to come to London," he said. "And I got hold ofyour address, M. Po[rot. I was interested to see you at therequest on Thursday.""So you saw me there ?""Yes. I was surprised--and, as I say, interested. Youwon't remember me but I remember you very well. In thatPangbourne Case.""Ah, you were connected with that ?""Only in a very junior, capacity. It's a long time ago butI've never forgotten you."And you recognised me at once the other day ?"lO6"That wasn't difficult, sir." Inspector Morton represseda slight smile. "Your appearance is-rather unusual."His gaze took in Poirot's sartorial perfection and restedfinally on the curving moustaches."You stick out in a country place," he smd."It is possible, it is possible," said Poirot with com-placency."It interested me wh, you should be there. That sort ofc ',r,m, , erobbery--assault--doesn't usually interest you."' Was !t the us,u, al ordinary brntM type of crime ?""That s what I ye been wondering.""Youhave wondered from the beginning, have you not ?""Yes, M. Poirot. There were some unusual features. Sincethen we've worked along the routine lines. Pulled in one ortwo people for questioning, but everyone has been able toaccou, nt quite satisfactori!y for his ,time that afternoon. Itwasn t what you'd call an ordinary crime, M. Poirot--we'requite sure of that. The Chief Constable rees. It was doneby someone who wished to make it appear that way. Itcould have been the Gilchrist woman, but there doesn't seemto be any motive---and there wasn't any emotional back-ground.Mrs. Lansquenet was perhaps a bit mental--or' simple,' if yon like to put it that way, but it was a householdof mistress and dosbody with no feverish feminine friendshipabout it. There are dozens of Miss Gfichrists about, andthe're not usuMly the murdering type."He paused."So it looks as though we'd have to look farther afield.I came to ask if you could help us at all. Something must havebrouht you down there, M. Poirot.""Yes, yes, something did. An excellent Daimler car. Butnot only that.""You had--information ?""Hardly in your sense of the word. Nothing that could beused as evidence.""But something that could bea pointer ?""Yes.""You see, M. Poirot, there have been developments."Meticulously, in detail, he told of the poisoned wedge ofwedding cake.Poirot took a deep hissing breath.ngemous--yes, ngemous... I warned Mr. Entwhistleto look after Miss Gilchrist. An attack on her was always apossibility. But I must confess that I did not expect poison.anticipated a repetition of the hatchet motif. I merelythought that it would be inadvit.e for her to walk alone inunfrequented lanes after dark.""But why did you anticipate.a, ttack on her ? I thinkM. Poirot, you ought to tell mePoirot nodded his head slowl"Yes I will tell you Mr I,,, .histle will not tell you,because'he is a lawfer knd 1.. .")t0!,?s do. no, like, to s, pea,k o!suppositions, of inferences madii..i,,lln the characterwoman, or from a few irresponsi: ,i" .,?vords. But he will not beaverse to my telling you--no, ii':;r?ll b.e re!ieved.. He ds not wish to appear foolish orknow what may--only may--bii,:;,,'i;::facts.Poirot paused as George entelil'tl,:.i,th a ta gla.ss.o,f, beer."Some refreshment, Inspect%,,# o, no, I msst."Won't you join me ?""I do not drink the beer. lz[ll will myself .hav. e a glassof sirop de sisthe English k'i,: do not care for it, I havenoticed."Inspector Morton looked grali;,..kt':llly, at his beer.Poirot, sipping delicately fr.:iiil,adhis glass of dark purplefluid, said:"It begins, all this, at a fur,'.t':.- Or rather, to be exact, after the funeral."Graphically, with many gest :i he set forth the story asMr. Entwhistle had told t to t:i:i" but with such embellishmentsas his exuberant naturet ?ggested. One a. lmost feltirot had himsei" een an eve-witness of thethat Hercule scene.an e :[ent clear-cut brain. HeInspector Morton had::e:.'. hisseized at once on what were, iit.purposes, the salientpoints."This Mr. Abernethie may"It is a possibility.""And the body has beend ;mated and there is noevidence?""Exactly."Inspector Morton ruminated."Interesting. There's nothiii lili it for .- Nothing, thatis, to make Richard Abernethiivi,ieath worth investigating.It would be waste of time.""Yes.""But there are the eole--t.,:;!l':'eople who were there--thepeople who heard Cora Lansqu%l.f,aY .wh. at she .d, id, a.nd oneof whom a have thought th.llme mght say t again anawith more detail."'.'lave. There are, Inspector,'s undoubtedly woulrl,v you see why I was at theAnd ni,f case---because it is, always,I interest--"."iill"attack onAbernethie had been::% eindicated.He had, perhaps,Heonly person who mighta name.something was Missknown or; murderer might continueis silence&t woman know something--g'Does the ethe/clerer is wise he will let wellIbtdOf course, if the m are seldom wise. Fortuna:',?0r0t'traurderers, Inspectoflel uncertain, they desire toiiat:a. They brood,'theyie pleased with their ownc"es:'quite sure. They 'they protrude their necks,l.'",u -t,li;,,nd so, in the end,:.ctl!:'iii I:Iorton smiled faintlY't ti"on:Gilchrist, already it is a'i..ato silence ME occasions about which youOrl! ' 'now there are t,ntmg on the wedding labelThere is the han'per was burnt."t:.s, II/!the wrapping f.a, then, whether it came by?';r,kf,:;:,been certf''. kt 'Iit didn't."the latter, you say ?"Imn.reason for thinkif nkshe's not sure. If thethepostman post office, it's ten to oneL;,.0ne through a villag :ed it, but nowadaysthe;.iellt,i'i?ress would have ket Henesand ofcourse"'aliv'.Y .thei'":g o .,,gl the,,,, .ered by van from and dehversa lot of thn s!i?Pdoesquite a rou'a parcel at: the cottage--but'[;,'r,,.;Vas letters only andPA, hes.hamng a bxt, of gnrl'': As ,a matterof ifanything else. Ivetestedhecan tt,,hinkaboO! ay way. If ? did delivertadhe isn t reliable arcelshouldn t have b,,een01:tt 50 me odd that the/hisname--Guthrie' q''"this Mr.--wh['uthrie."[ortonsmiled'0g up on him. After all,itii,!oirot.W,e.'r;chec ifnealongw ?haplausible',wouldntit,toc,Lansqueraets.Mrs.BanksbeenafriendofIvlf?t.HecouldhavedroppedifhewasorhewaC'easytomakeathinglookati1,youknow.It ost.Lampblackalittlebeenthroughtheo9thought that it would be inadvisable for her to walk alone inunfrequented lanes after dark.""But mhy did you anticipate an attack on her ? I thinkM. Poirot, you ought to tell me that."Poirot nodded his head slowly."Yes, I will tell you. Mr. Entwhistle will not tell you,because he is a lawyer and lawyers do not like to speak ofsuppositions, of inferences made from the character of a deadwoman, or from a few irresponsible words. But he will not beaverse to my telling you--no, he will be relieved. He doesnot wish to appear foolish or fanciful, but he wants you toknow what may--only may--be the facts."Poirot paused as George entered with a tall glass of beer."Some refreshment, Inspector. No, no, I insist.""Won't you join me ?""I do not drink the beer. But I will myself have a glassof sirop de cassis--the English they do not care for it, I havenoticed."Inspector Morton looked gratefully at his beer.Poirot, sipping delicately from his glass of dark purplefluid, said:"It begins, all this, at a funeral. Or rather, to be exact,after the funeral."Graphically, with many gestures, he set forth the story asMr. Entwhistle had told it to him, but with such embellish-mentsas his exuberant nature suggested. One almost feltthat Hercule Poirot had himself been an eye-witness of thescene.Inspector Morton had an excellent clear-cut brain. Heseized at once on what were, for his purposes, the salientpoints."This Mr. Abernethie may have been poisoned ?""It is a possibility.""And the body has been cremated and there is noevidence?""Exactly."Inspector Morton ruminated."Interesting. There's nothin,g in it for us. Nothing, thatis, to make Richard Abernethie s death worth investigating.It would be waste of time.""Yes.""But there are the people--the people who were there--thepeople who heard Cora Lansquenet say what she did, and oneof whom may have thought that she might say it again andwith more detail.""As she undoubtedly would have. There are, Inspector,as you say, the people. And now you see why I was at theinquest, why I interest myself in the case--because it is, always, people in whom I interest myself.""Then the attack on Miss Gilchrist- ""Was always indicated. Richard Abernethie had beendown to the cottage. He had talked to Cora. He had, perhaps,actually mentioned a name. The only person who mightpossibly have known or overheard something was MissGilchrist. After Cora is silenced, the murderer might continueto be aaaxious. Does the other woman know something--anything? Of course, if the murderer is wise he will let wellalone, but murderers, Inspector, are seldom wise. Fortunatelyfor us. They brood, they feel uncertain, they desire tomake sure---quite sure. They are pleased with their owncleverness. And so, in the end, they protrude their 'necks,asyou say."Inspector lIorton smiled faintly.Poirot went on:"This attempt to silence Miss Gilchrist, already it is amistake. For now there are two occasions about which youmake inquiry. There is the handwriting on the wedding labelalso. It is a pity the wrapping paper was burnt.""Yes, I could have been certain, then, whether it came bypost or whether it didn't.""You have reason for thinking the latter, you say ?" "It's only what the postman thinks--he's not sure. Iftheparcel had gone through a village post office, it's ten to onethe postmistress would have noticed it, but nowadays themail is delivered by van from arket Keynes and of coursethe young chap does quite a rouhd and delivers a lot of things.He thinks it was letters only and no parcel at the cottage--buthe isn't sure. As a matter of fact he's having a bit of girltrouble and he can't think about anything else. I've testedhis memory and he isn't reliable in any way. If he did deliverit, it seems to me odd that the parcel shouldn't have beennoticed until after this Mr.whatshisname--Guthrie""Ah, Mr. Guthrie."Inspector Morton smiled."Yes, M. Poirot. We're checking up on him. After all, itwould be ea;y, wouldn't it, to come along with a plausibletale of having been a friend of Mrs. Lansquenet's. Mrs. Bankswasn't to know if he was or he wasn't. He could have droppedtat little parcel, you know. It's easy to make a thing lookas though it's been through the post. Lamp black a littlesmudged, makes quite a good postmark cancellation markover a staxnp."He paused and then added:"And there are other possibilities."Poirot nodded."You think----- ?""Mr. George Crossfield was down in that part of the world---but not until the next day. Meant to attend the funeral,but had a little engine trouble on the way. Know anythingabout him, M. Poirot ?""A little. But not as much as I would -like to know." "Like that, is it ? Quite a little bunch interested in thelate Mr. Abernethie's will, I understand. I hope it doesn'tmean going after all of them.""I have accumulated a little information. It is at yourdisposal. Naturally I have no authority to ask these peo,,plequestions. In, fact it would not be wise for me to do so."I shall go slowly myself. You don't want to fluster yourbird too soon. But when you do fluster it, you want to flusterit well.""A very sound technique. For you then, my friend, theroutine--with all the machinery you ,,have at your disposal.It is slow--but sure. For myself."Yes, bi. Poirot ?""For myself, I go North. As I have told you, it is people in whom I interest myself. Yes--a littlepreparatory camoufiagemand I go North."I intend," added Hercule Poirot, "to purchase a countrymansion,, An-hatfr f,oreigns U.N.A.R,C.o.refugees' ?I,,represent U.N.A.R.C.O.""United Nations Aid for Refugee Centres Organisation. Itsounds well, do you not think ?"Inspector Morton grinned.CHAPTER XIVHERCULE POIROT said to a grim-faced Janet:"Thank you very much. You have been most kind."Janet, her lips still fixed in a sour line, left the room. Theseforeigners I The questions they asked. Their impertinence IAll very well to say that he was a spet interested in unsuspectedheart conditions such as Mr. Abernethie must havesuffered from. That was very likely true--gone very suddenNothe master had, and the doctor had been surprised. Butwhat business was it of some foreign doctor coming along andnosing around ?All very well for Mrs. Leo to say: "Please answer MonsieurPontarlier's questions. He has a good reason for asking."Questions. Always questions. Sheets of them sometimesto fill in as best you could--and what did the Government oranyone else want to know about your private affairs for ?Asking your age at that censusclownright impertinent andshe hadn't told them, either l Cut off five years she had.Why not ? If she only felt fifty-four, she'd call herself fifty-four IAt any rate Monsieur Pontarlier hadn't wanted to know herage. He'd had some decency. Just questions about themedicines the master had taken, and where they were kept,and if, perhaps, he might have taken too much of them if hewas feeling not quite the thing--or if he'd been forgetful. Asthough she could remember all that rubbish--the master knewwhat he was doing I And asking if any of the medicines hetook were still in the house. Naturally they'd all been thrownaway. Heart condition--and some long word he'd used.Always thinking of something new they were, these doctors.Look at them telling old Rogers he had a disc or some suchin his spine. Plain lumbago, that was all that was the matterwith him. Her father had been a gardener and he'd sufferedfrom lumbago. Doctors IThe self-appointed medical man sighed and went downstairsin search of Lanscombe. He had not got very much out ofJanet but he had hardly expected to do so. All he had reallywanted to do was to check such information as could unwill~ingly be extracted from her with that given him by HelenAbernethie and which had been obtained from the samesource--but with much less difficulty, since Janet was readyto admit that Mrs. Leo had a perfect right to ask such questionsand indeed Janet herself had enjoyed dwelling at length onthe last few weeks of her master's life. Illness and deathwere congenial subjects to her.Yes, Poirot thought, he could have relied on the informationthat Helen had got for him. He had done so really. But bynature and long habit he trusted nobody until he himself hadtried and proved them.In any case the evidence was slight and unsatisfactory. Itboiled down to the fact that Richard Abernethie had beenprescribed vitamin oil capsules. That these had been in alarge bottle which had been nearly finished at the time ofIIIhis death. Anybody who had wanted to, could have operated on one or more of those capsules with ahypodermic syringeand could have rearranged the bottle so that the fatal dosewould only be taken some weeks after that somebody hadleft the house. Or someone might have slipped into the houseon the day before Richard Abernethie died and have doctoreda capsule then-or, which was more likely--have substitutedsomething else for a sleeping tablet in the little bottle thatstood beside the bed. Or again might have quite simplytampered with the food or drink.Hercule Poirot had made his own experiments. The frontdoor was kept locked, but there was a side door giving on thegarden which was not locked until evening. At about quarter-pastone, when the gardeners had gone to lunch and when thehousehold was in the dining-room, Poirot had entered thegrounds, come to the side door, and mounted the stairs toRichard Abernethie's bedroom without meeting anybody. Asa variant he had pushed through a baize door and slippedinto the larder. He had heard voices from the kitchen at theend of the passage but no one had seen him.Yes, it could have been done. But had it been done ?There was nothing to indicate that that was so. Not thatPoirot was really looking for evidence--he wanted only tosatisfy himself as to possibilities. The murder of RichardAbernethie could only be a hypothesis. It was Cora Lansquenet'smurder for which evidence was needed. What hewanted was to study the people who had been assembled for the funeral that day, and to form his ownconclusions aboutthem. He already had his plan, but first he wanted a fewmore words with old Lanscombe.Lanscombe was courteous but distant. Less resentful thanJanet, he nevertheless regarded this upstart foreigner as thematerialisation of the Writing on the Wall. This was WhatWe are Coming to IHe put down the leather with which he was lovingly polishingthe Georgian teapot and straightened his back."Yes, sir ? "he said politely.Poirot sat down gingerly on a pantry stool."Mrs. Abernethie tells me that you hoped to reside in thelodge by the north gate when you retired from service here ?""That is so, sir. Nat,u, rally all that is changed now. Whenthe property is sold-Poirot interrupted deftly:"It might still be possible. There are cottages for thegardeners. The lodge is not needed for the guests or their112attendants. It might be possible to make an arrangement ofsome kind.""Well, thank you, sir, for the suggestion. But I hardlythinkThemajority of the--guests would be foreigners,I presume ?""Yes, they will be foreigners. Amongst those who fledfrom Europe to this country are several who are old and infirm.There can be no future for them if they return to their owncountries, for these persons, you understand, are those whoserelatives there have perished. They cannot earn their livinghere as an able-bodied man or woman can do. Funds havebeen raised and are being administered by the organisationwhich I represent to endow various country homes for them.This place is, I think, eminently suitable.The matter ispractically settled."Lanscombe sighed."You'll understand, sir, that it's sad for me to think thatthis won't be a private dwelling-house any longer. But I knowhow things are nowadays. None of the family could afford tolive here--and I don't think the young ladies and gentlemenwould even want to cio so. Domestic help is too difficult toobtain these days, and even if obtained is expensive and unsat-isfactory.I quite realise that these fine mansions haveserved their turn." Lanscombe sighed again. "If it has tobe an--an institution of some kind, I'll be glad to think thatit's the kind you're mentioning. We were Spared in ThisCountry, sir, owing to our Navy and Air Force and our braveyoung men and being fortunate enough to be an island. IfHitler had landed here we'd all have turned out and given himshort shrift. My sight isn't good enough for shooting, butI could have used a pitchfork, sir, and I intended to do so ifnecessary. We've always welcomed the unfortunate in thiscountry, sir, it's been our pride. We shall continue so to do.""Thank you, Lanscombe," said Poirot gently. "Yourmaster's death must have been a great blow to you.""It was, sir. I'd been with the master since he was quitea young man. I've been very fortunate in my life, sir. Noone could have had a better master.""I have been conversing with my friend and--er colleague,Dr. Larraby. We were wondering if your master could havehad any extra worry--any unpleasant interview--on the daybefore he died ? You do not remember if any visitors cameto the house that day ?""I think not, sir. I do not recall any.""No one called at all just about that time ? '"The vicar was here to tea the day before. Otherwise--some nuns called for a subscription--and a young man cameto the back door and wanted to sell Marjorie some brushes andsaucepan cleaners. Very persistent he was. Nobody else."A worried expression had appeared on Lanscombe's face.Poirot did not press him further. Lanscombe had alreadyunburdened himself to Mr. Entwhistle. He would be far lessforthcoming with Hercule Poirot.With Marjorie, on the other hand, Poirot had had instantsuccess. Marjorie had none of the conventions of "goodservice." Marjorie was a first-class cook and the way to herheart lay through her cooking. Poirot had visited her in thekitchen, praised certain dishes with discernment, and Marjorie,realising that here was someone who knew what he was talkingabout, hailed him immediately as a fellow spirit. He had nodifficulty in finding out exactly what had been served the nightbefore Richard Abernethie had died. Marjorie, indeed, wasinclined to view the matter as" It was the night I made thatchocolate souffi that Mr. Abernethie died. Six eggs I'd savedup for it. The dairyman he's a friend of mine. Got hold ofsome cream too. Better not ask how. Enjoyed it, Mr. Abernethie did." The rest of the meal was likewise detailed. Whathad come out from the dining-room had been finished in thekitchen. Ready as/larjorie was to talk, Poirot had learnednothing of value from her.He went now to fetch his overcoat and a couple of scarves,and thus padded against the North Country air he went outon the terrace and joined Helen Abernethie, who was clippingsome late roses."Have you found out anything fresh ?" she asked."Nothing. But I hardly expected to do so.""I know. Ever since Mr. Entwhistle told me you werecoming, I've been ferreting round, but there's really beennothing."She paused and said hopefully:"Perhaps it is all a mare's nest ?""To be attacked with a hatchet ?""I wasn't thinking of Cora.""But it is of Cora that I think. Why was it necessary forsomeone to kill her ? Mr. Entwhistle has told me that on thatday, at the moment that she came out suddenly with hergaff`z,,, you yourself felt that something was wrong.That isso?"Wellwyes, but I don't know "Poirot swept on."How ' wrong' ? Unexpectecl ? Surprising ? Or--whatshall we say--uneasy ? Sinister ?""Oh no, not sinister. Just SOmething that wasn't---oh, Idon't know. I can't remember and it WaSl,'t important.""But why cannot you remember--because something elseput, it out of your head--so, mething more important ?"Yes--yes--I think you re right there. It was thementionof murder, I suppose. That swelt away everything else.""It was, perhaps, the reaction of some particular person tothe word ' murder' ?""Perhaps... But I don't renaember looking at anyone inparticular. We were all staring at Cora.""It may have been something you heard--somethingdropped perhaps.., or broken. , ."Helen frowned in an effort of remembrance."No... Idon'tthinkso...""Ah well, someday it will con'se back. And it may be ofno consequence. Now tell me, Madame, of those here, whoknew Cora best ?"Helen considered."Lanscombe, I suppose. He remembers her from a child.The housemaid, Janet, only cam after she had married andgone away.""And next to Lanscombe ?"Helen said thoughtfully: "I suppose--/ did. Maudehardly knew her at all.""Then, taking you as the person who knew her best, whydo you think she asked that queation as stxe did ?"Helen smiled."It was very characteristic of Coral""What I mean is, was it a btise pure and simple ? Did shejust blurt out what was in her rrtind without thinking ? Orwas she being malicious--amusing herself by upsettingeveryone ?"Helen reflected."You can't ever be quite sure about a person, can you ?I never have known whether Cra was just ingenuous--or whether she counted, childishly, an making aneffect. That'swhat you mean, isn't it ?""Yes. I was thinking: Suplhose this Mrs. Cora says toherself' What fun it would be to ask if Richard was murderedand see how they all look I ' That would be like her, yes ?"Helen looked doubtful."It might be. She certainly had an impish sense of humouras a child. But what difference does it make ?""It would underline the point that it is unwise to makejokes about murder," said Poirot dryly.Helen shivered. "Poor Cora."Poirot changed the subject."Mrs. Timothy Abernethie stayed the night after thefuneral ?""Yes.""Did she talk to you at all about what Cora had said ?""Yes, she said it was outrageous and just like Cora I""She didn't take it seriously ?" "Oh, no. No, I'm sure she didn't."The second "no," Poirot thought, had sounded suddenlydoubtful. But was not that almost always the case whenyou went back over something in your mind ?"And you, Madame, did you take it seriously ?"Helen Abernethie, her eyes looking very blue and strangelyyoung under the sideways sweep of crisp grey hair, saidthoughtfully:"Yes, M. Poirot, I think I did.""Because of your feeling that something was wrong ?""Perhaps."He waited--but as she said nothing more, he went on:"There had been an estrangement, lasting many years,between Mrs. Lansquenet and her family ?""Yes. None of us liked her husband and she was offendedabout it, and so the estrangement grew.""And then, suddenly, your brother-in-law went to see her. W,,y ?" ,I don t know--I suppose he knew, or guessed, that hehadn't very long to live and wanted to be reconciled butI really don't know.""He didn't tell you ?""Tell rne ?""Yes. You were here, staying with him, just before hewent there. He didn't even mention his intention to you ?"He thought a slight reserve came into her manner."He told me that he was going to see his brother Timothymwhich he did. He never mentioned Cora at all. Shall wego in ? It must be nearly lunchtime."She walked beside him carrying the flowers she had picked.As they went in by the side door, Poirot said:"You are sure, quite sure, that during your visit, Mr.Abernethie said nothing to you about any member of thefamily which might be relevant ?"A faint resentment in her'manner, Helen said:"You are speaking like a policeman.""I was a policeman--once. I have no status--no right toquestion you. But you want the truth---or so I have been ledto believe ?"They entered the green drawing-room. Helen said with asigh:"Richard was disappointed in the younger generation.Old men usually are. He disparaged them in various ways---'but there was nothing--nothing, do you understand--thatco,u, ld p,o, ssibly suggest a motive for murder."' Ah, said Poirot. She reached for a Chinese bowl, andbegan to arrange the roses in it. When they were disposed toher satisfaction she looked round for a place to put it."You arrange flowers admirably, Madame," said Hercule."I think that anything you undertook you would manage todo with perfection.""Thank you. I am fond of flowers. I think this wouldlook well on that green malachite table."There was a bouquet of wax flowers under a glass shade onthe malachite table. As she lifted it off, Poirot said casually:"Did anyone tell Mr. Abernethie that his niece Susan'shusband had come near to poisoning a customer when makingup a prescription ? Ah, pardon I"He sprang forward.The Victorian ornament had slipped from Helen's fingers.Poirot's spring forward was not quick enough. It dropped onthe floor and the glass shade broke. Helen gave an expressionof annoyance."How careless of me. However, the flowers are notdamaged. I can get a new glass shade made for it. I'll put itaway in the big cupboard under the stairs."It was not until Poirot had helped her to lift it on to ashelf in the dark cupboard and had followed her back to thedrawing-room that he said:"It was my fault. I should not have startled you.""What was it that you asked me ? I have forgotten.""Oh, there is no need to repeat my question. Indeed--Ihave forgotten what it was."Helen came up to him. She laid her hand on his arm."M. Poirot, is there anyone whose life would really bearclose investigation ? Must people's lives be dra,,gged into thiswhen they have nothing to do with--with"With the death of Cora Lasquenet ? Yes. Because onehas to examine everything. Oh l it is true enough--it is anII7old maxim--everyone has something to hide. It is true of all ofus--it is perhaps true of you, too, Madame. But I say to you,nothing can be ignored. That is why your friend, Mr. Ent-whistle,he has come to me. For I am not the police. I amdiscreet and what I learn does not concern me. But I have toknow. And since in this matter is not so much evidence asaOple--then it is people with whom I occupy myself. I need,dame, to meet everyone who was here on the day of thefuneral. And it would be a great convenience--yes, and itwould be strategically satisfactory--if I could meet themhere.""I'm afraid," Helen said slowly, "that that would be toodifficulty""Not so difficult as you think. Already I have devised ameans. The house, it is sold. $o Mr. Entwhistle will declare.(Entendu, sometimes these things fall through 1) He willinvite the various member of the family to assemble hereand to choose what they will from the furnishings before itis all put up to auction. A suitable week-end can be selectedfor that purpose.",,He paused and then said:You see, it is easy, is it not ?"Helen looked at him. The blue eves were cold--almostfr"se*' you laying a trap for someone, M. Poirot ?""Alas I I wish I knew enough. No, I have still the openmind.""There may," Hercule Poirot added thoughtfully, "becertain tests...""Tests ? What kind of tests ?""I have not yet formulated them to myself. And in anycase, Madame, it would be better that you should not knowthem.""So that I can be tested too ?""You, Madame, have been taken behind the scenes. Nowthere is one thing that is doubtful. The young people will,I think, come readily. But it may be difficult, may it not, tosecure the presence here of Mr. Timothy Abernethie. I hearthat he never leaves home."Helen smiled suddenly."I believe you may be lucky there, M. Poirot. I heard fromMaude yesterday. The workmen are in painting the houseand Timothy is suffering terribly from the smell of the paint.He says that it is seriously affecting his health. I think thathe and Maude would both be pleased to come here--perhapsII8for a week or two. Maude is still not able to get about verywellwyou know she broke her ankle ?""I had not heard. How unfortunate.""Luckily they have got Cora's companion, Miss Gilchrist.It seems that she has turned out a perfect treasure.""What is that ?" Poirot turned sharply on Helen. "Did they ask for Miss Gilchrist to go to them ? Whosuggestedit ?""I think Susan fixed it up. Susan Banks.""Aha," said Poirot in a curious voice. "So it was thelittle Susan who suggested it. She is fond of making thearrangements.""Susan struck me as being a very competent girl.""Yes. She is competent. Did you hear that Miss Gilchristhad a narrow escape from death with a piece of poisonedwedding cake ?""No I" Helen looked startled. "I do remember now that/laude said over the telephone that Miss Gilchrist had justcome out of hospital but I'd no idea why she had been inhospital. Poisoned ? But, 3/I. Poirot--why ?""Do you really ask that ?"Helen said with sudden vehemence:"Oh! get them all here l Find out the truth l Theremustn't be any more murders." "So you will co-operate ?""Yes--I will cooperate."CHAPTER XV"T}A? r. INOr.UXi does look nice, Mrs. Jones. What a handyou have with lino. The teapot's on the kitchen table, so goand help yourself. I'll be there as soon as I've taken upMr. Abernethie's elevenses."Miss Gilchrist trotted up the staircase; carrying a daintilyset out tray. She tapped on Timothy s door, interpreteda growl from within as an invitation to enter, and trippedbrisldr in..",Morning coffee and biscuits, Mr. Abernethe. I do hopeyou re feeling brighter to-day. Such a lovely day."Timothy grunted and said suspiciously:"Is there skim on that milk ?""Oh no, Mr. Abernethie. I took it off very carefully, andanyway I've brought up the little strainer in case it shouldII9form again. Some people like it, you know, they say it's the cream--and so it is really.""Idiotsl" said Timothy. "What kind of biscuits arethose ?""They're those nice digestive biscuits.""Digestive tripe. Ginger-nuts are the only biscuits wortheating.""I'm afraid the grocer hadn't got any this week. But theseare really very nice. You try them and see.""I know what they're like, thank you. Leave those curtainsalone, can't you ?""I thought you might like a little sunshine. It's such anice sunny day.""I want the room kept dark. My head's terrible. It's thispaint. I've always been sensitive to paint. It's poisoningMiss Gilchrist sniffed experimentally and said brightly:"One really can't smell it nmch in here. The workmen areover on the other side.""You're not sensitive like I am. Must I have all the booksI'm reading taken out of my reach ?""I'm so sorry, Mr. Abernethie, I didn't know you werereading all of them.""Where's my wife ? I haven't seen her for over an hour." "Mrs. Abernethie's resting on the sofa." "Tellher to come and rest up here.""I'll tell her, Mr. Abernethie. But she may have droppedoff to sleep. Shall we say in about a quarter of an hour ?""No, tell her I want her now. Don't monkey about withthat rug. It's arranged the way I like it.""'I'm so sorry. I thought it was slipping off the farside.""I like it slipping off. Go and get Maude. I want her."Miss Gilchrist departed downstairs and tiptoed into thedrawing-room where Maude Abernethie was sitting with herleg up reading a novel."I'm so sorry, Mrs. Abernethie," she said apologetically. "Mr. Abernethie is asking for you."Maude thrust aside her novel with a guilt,y, expression. "Oh dear," she said, "I'll go up at once.She reached for her stick.Timothy burst out as soon as his wife entered the room:"So there you are at last I""I'm so sorry, dear, I didn't know you wanted me.""That woman you've got into the house will drive me mad.120 'Twittering and fluttering round like a demented hen. Realtypical old maid, that's what she is.""I'm sorry she annoys you. She tries to be kind, that's all." "I don't want anybody kind. I don't want ablasted oldmaid al,ways chirruping over me.She's so damned arch,too"Just a little, perhaps.""Treats me as though I was a confounded kid! It'smaddening.""I'm sure it must be. But please, please, Timothy, do trynot to be rude to her. I'm really very helpless still andyou yourself say she cooks well.""Her cooking's all right," Mr. Abernethie admittedgrudgingly. "Yes, she's a decent enough cook. But keep herin the kitchen, that's all I ask. Don't let her come fussinground me.""No, dear, of course not. How are you feeling ?""Not at all well. I think you'd better send for Barton tocome and have a look at me. This paint affects my heart.Feel my pulse--the irregular way it's beating."Maude felt it without comment."Timothy, shall we go to an hotel until the house paintingis finished ?""It would be a great waste of money.""Does that matter so much now ?""You're just like all women--hopelessly extravagant I Justbecause we've come into a ridiculously small part of mybrother's estate, you think we can go and live indefinitely atthe Ritz.""I didn't quite say that, dear.""I can tell you that the difference Richard's money willmake will be hardly appreciable. This bloodsucking Governmentwill see to that. You mark my words, the whole lotwill go in taxation."Mrs. Abernethie shook her head sadly."Ti is coffee's cold," said the invalid, looking with distasteat the cup which he had not as yet tasted. "Why can't I everget a cup of really hot coffee ?""I'll take it down and warm it up."In the kitchen Miss Gilchrist was drinking tea and conversingaffably, though with slight condescension, with Mrs.Jones."I'm so anxious to spare Mrs. Abernethie all I can," shesaid. "All this running up and down stairs is so painfulfor her."121"Waits on him hand and foot, she does," said Mrs. Jones,stirring the sugar in her cup."It's very sad his being such an invalid.""Not such an invalid either," Mrs. Jones said darkly."Suits him very well to lie up and ring bells and have traysbrought up and down. But he's well able to get up and goabout. Even seen him out in the village, I have, when she'sbeen away. Walking as hearty as you please. Anything hereally needs--like his tobacco or a stamp--he can come andget. And that's why when shwas off at that funeral and gotheld up on the way back, and h told me I'd got to come inand stay the night again, I refused. ' I'm sorry, sir,' I said,' but I've got my husband to think of. Going out to obligein the mornings is all very well, but I've got to be there tosee to him when he comes back from work.' Nor I wouldn'tbudge, I wouldn't. Do him good, I thought, to get about thehouse and look after himself for once. Might make him seewhat a lot he gets done for him. So I stood firm, I did. Hedidn't half create."Mrs. Jones drew a deep breath and took a long satisfyingdrink of sweet inky tea. "Ar," she said.Though deeply suspicious of Miss Gilchrist, and consideringher as a finicky thing and a "regular fussy old maid," Mrs.Jones approved of the lavish way in which Miss Gilchristdispensed her employer's tea and sugar ration.She set down the cup and said affably:"I'll give the kitchen floor a nice scrub down and then I'llbe getting along. The potatoes is all ready peeled, dear,you'll find them by the sink."Though slightly affronted by the "dear," Miss Gilchristwas appreciative of the goodwill which had divested anenormous quantity oi potatoes of their outer coverings.Before she could say anything the telephone rang and shehurried out in the hall to answer it. The telephone, in thestyle of fifty odd years ago, was situated inconveniently in adraughty passage behind the staircase.Maude Abernethie appeared at the top of the stairs whileMiss Gilchrist was still speaking. The latter looked up andsaid:"It's Mrs.--Leo--is it ?--Abernethie speaking.""Tell her I'm just coming."Maude descended the stairs slowly and painfully.Miss Gilchrist murmured, "I'm so sorry you've had tocome down again, Mrs. Abernethie. Has Mr. Abernethiefinished his elevenses ? I'll just nip up and get the tray."122She trotted up the stairs as Mrs. Abernethie said into thereceiver."Helen ? This is Maude here."The invalid received Miss Gilchrist with a baleful glare. Asshe picked up the tray he asked fretfully:"Who's that on the telephone ?""Mrs. Leo Abernethie.""Oh ? Suppose they'll go gossiping for about an hour.Women have no sense of time when they get on the phone.Never think of the money they're wasting."Miss Gilchrist said brightly that it would be Mrs. Leo whohad to pay, and Timothy grunted."Just pull that curtain aside, will you ? No, not that one,the other one. I don't want the liglt slap in my eyes. That'sbetter. No reason because I'm an invalid that I should haveto sit in the dark all day."He went on:"And you might look in that bookcase over there for agreenWhat's the matter now ? What are you rushingoff for ?""It's the front door, Mr. Abernethie.""I didn't hear anything. Ymfve got that woman down-stairs,haven't you ? Let her go and answer it.""Yes, Mr. Abernethie. What was the book you wanted meto find ?"The invalid closed his eyes."I can't remember now. You've put it out of my head.You'd better go."Miss Gilchrist seized the tray and hurriedly departed.Putting the tray on the pantry table she hurried into thefront hall, passing Mrs. Abernethie who was still at the tele-phone.She returned in a moment to ask in a muted voice:"I'm so sorry to interrupt. It's a nun. Collecting. TheHeart of Mary Fund, I think she said. She has a book. Halfa crown or five shillings most people seem to have given."Maude Abernethie said:"Just a moment, Helen," into the telephone, and to MissGilchrist, "I don't subscribe to Roman Catholics. We haveour own Church charities."Miss Gilchrist hurried away again.Maude terminated her conversation after a few minuteswith the phrase, "I'll talk to Timothy about it."She replaced the receiver and came into the front hall.Miss Gilchrist was standing quite still by the drawing-roomdoor. She was frowning in a puzzled way and jumped whenMaude Abernethie spoke to her."There's nothing the matter, is there, Miss Gilchrist ?""Oh no, Mrs. Abernethie, I'm afraid I was just woolgathering. So stupid of me when there's so much to be done."Miss Gilchrist resumed her imitation of a busy ant andMaude Abernethie climbed the stairs slowly and painfully toher husband's room."That was Helen on the telephone. It seems that the placeis definitely sold some Institution for Foreign Refugees----"She paused whilst Timothy expressed himself forcefully onthe subject of Foreign Refugees, with side issues as to the housein which he had been born and brought up. "No decentstandards left in this country. My old home I I can hardlybear to think of it."Maude went on."Helen quite appreciates what you--we--will feel aboutit. She suggests that we might like to come there for a visitbefore it goes. She was very distressed about your health andthe way the painting is affecting it. She thought you mightprefer coming to Enderby to going to an hotel. The servantsare there still, so you could be looked after comfortably."Timothy, whose mouth had been open in outraged protestshalf-way through this, had closed it again. His eyes hadbecome suddenly shrewd. He now nodded his head approvingly."Thoughtful of Helen," he said. "Very thoughtful. Idon't know, I'm sure, I'll have to think it overThere'snodoubt that this paint is poisoning me--there's arsenic in paint,I believe. I seem to have heard something of the kind. Onthe other hand the exertion of moving might be too much forme. It's difficult to know what would be the best.""Perhaps you'd prefer an hotel, dear," said Maude. "A goodhotel is very expensive, but where your health is concerned"Timothyinterrupted."I wish I could make you understand, Maude, that we ar notmillionaires. Why go to an hotel when Helen has very kindlysuggested that we should go to Enderby ? Not that it'sreally for her to suggest I The house isn't hers. I don't understandlegal subtleties, but I presume it belongs to us equallyuntil it's sold and the proceeds divided. Foreign'RefugeeslIt would have made old Cornelius turn in his grave. Yes," he sighed, "I should like to see the old placeagainbefore I die."12 4Maude played her last card adroitly."I understand that Mr. Entwhistle has suggested that themembers of the family might like to choose certain pieces offurniture or china or something--before the contents are putup for auction."Timothy heaved himself briskly upright."We must certainly go. There must be a very exactvaluation of what is chosen by each person. Those men thegirls have married--I wouldn't trust either of them from whatI've heard. There might be some sharp practice. Helen isfar too amiable. As the head of the family, it is my duty tobe present 1"He got up and walked up and down the room with a briskvigorous tread."Yes, it is an excellent plan. Write to Helen and accept.What I am really thinking about is you, my dear. It will bea nice rest and change for you. You have been doing far toomuch lately. The decorators can get on with the paintingwhile we are away and that Gillespie woman can stay hereand look after the house.""Gilchrist," said Maude.Timothy waved a hand and said that it was all the same."I can't do it," said Miss Gilchrist.Maude looked at her in surprise.Miss Gilchrist was trembling. Her eyes looked pleadinglyinto Maude's."It's stupid of me, I know... But I simply can't. Notstay here all alone in the house. If there was anyone whocould come and--and sleep here too ?"She looked hopefully at the other woman, but Maude shookher head. Maude Abernethie knew only too well how difficultit was to get anyone in the neighbourhood to "live in."Miss Gilchrist went on, a kind of desperation in her voice."I know you'll think.it nervy and foolish--and I wouldn'thave dreamed once that I'd ever feel like this. I've neverbeen a nervous woman--or fanciful. But now it all seemsdifferent. I'd be terrified--yes, literally terrified--to be allalone here.""Of course," said Maude. "It's stupid of me. After whathappened at Lytchett St. Mary.""I suppose that's it... It's not logical, I know. And II25didn't feel it at first. I didn't mind being alone in the cottageafter--after it had happened The feeling's grown up gradu-ally.You'll have no opinion of me at all, Mrs. Abernethie,but even since I've been here I've been feeling it--frightened,you know. Not of anything in particular--but just frightened... It's so silly and I really am ashamed. It's just as thoughall the time I was expecting something awful to happen...Even that nun comin,g, to the door startled me. Oh dear,I am in a bad way..."I suppose it's what they call delayed shock," said Maudeva,,gely.Is it ? I don't know. Oh dear, I'm so sorry to appearso--so ungrateful, and after all your kindness. What you willMaude soothed her."We must think of some other arrangement," she said.CHAPTER XVIGEORGE CROSSFIELD paused irresolutely for a moment as hewatched a particular feminine back disappear through adoorway. Then he nodded to himself and went in pursuit.The doorway in question was that of a double-fronted shop--a shop that had gone out of business. The plate-glasswindows showed a disconcerting emptiness within. Thedoor was closed, but George rapped on it. A vacuous facedyoung man with spectacles opened it and stared at George."Excuse me," said George. "But I think my cousin justcame in here."The young man drew back and George walked in."Hallo, Susan," he said.Susan, who was standing on a packing-case and using afoot-rule, turned her head in some surprise."Hallo, George. Where did you spring from ?""I saw your back. I was sure it was yours.""How clever of you. I suppose backs are distinctive.""Much more so than faces. Add a beard and pads in yourcheeks and do a few things to your hair and nobody willknow you when you come face to face with them--but bewareof the moment when you walk away.""I'll remember. Ca-n you remember seven feet five inchesuntil I've got time to write it down.""Certainly. What is this, book shelves ? 'x26"No, cubicle space. Eight feet nine--and three seven..."The young man with the spectacles who had been' fidgetingfrom one foot to the other, coughed apologetically."Excuse me, Mrs. Banks, but if you want to be here forsome time ""I do, rather," said Susan. "If you leave the keys, I'lllock the door and return them to the office when I go past.Will that be all right ?""Yes, thank y,,ou. If it weren't that we're short staffedthis morningSusan accepted the apologetic intent of the half-finishedsentence and the young man removed himself to the outerworld of the street."I'm glad we've got rid of him," said Susan. "Houseagents are a bother. They will keep talking just when I wantto do sums.""Ah," said George. "Murder in an empty shop. Howexciting it would be for the passers-by to see the dead bodyof a beautiful young woman displayed behind plate glass.How they would goggle. Like goldfish.""There wouldn't be any reason for you to murder me,George.""Well, I should get a fourth part of your share of ouresteemed uncle's estate. If one were sufficiently fond ofmoney that should be a reason."Susan stopped taking measurements and turned to look athim. Her eyes opened a little."You look a different person, George.It's really--extraordinary.""Different ? How different ?""Like an advertisement. This is the same man that you sauoverleaf, but now he has taken Uppington's Health Salts."She sat down on another packing-case and lit a cigarette."You must have wanted your share of old Richard's moneypretty badly, George ?""Nobod,y, could honestly say that money isn't welcomethese days.George's tone was light.Susan said: "You were in a jam, weren't you ?""Hardly your business, is it, Susan ?""I was just interested.""Are you renting this shop as0,a place of business ?""I'm buying the whole house."With possession ?""Yes. The two upper floors were flats. One's empty andI27went with the shop. The other I'm buying the peopleout.""Nice to have money, isn't it, Susan ?"There was a malicious tone in George's voice. But Susanmerely took a deep breath and said:"As far as I'm concerned, it's wonderful. An answer toprayer.""Does prayer kill off elderly relatives ?"Susan paid no attention."This place is exactly right. To begin with, it's a verygood piece of period architecture. I can make the living partupstairs something quite unique. There are two lovelymoulded ceilings and the rooms are a beautiful shape. Thispart down here which has already been hacked about I shallhave completely modern.""What is this ? A dress business ?""No. Beauty culture.Herbal preparations. Facecreams I""The full racket ?""The racket as before. It pays. It always pays. Whatyou need to put it over is personality. I can do it."George looked at his cousin appreciatively, lie admiredthe slanting planes of her face, the generous mouth, theradiant colouring. Altogether an unusual and vivid face.And he recognised in Susan that odd, indefinable quality, thequality of success."Yes," he said, "I think you've got what it takes, Susan.You'll get back your outlay on this scheme and you'll getplaces with it.""It's the fight neighbourhood, just off main shoppingstreet and you can park a car fight in front of the door."Again George nodded."Yes, Susan, you're going to succeed. Have you had thisin mind for a long time ?""Over a year ?""Why didn't you put it up to old Richard ? He mighthave staked you?--"I did put it up to him.""And he didn't see his way ? I wonder why. I should havethought he'd have recognised the same mettle that he himselfwas made of."Susan did not answer, and into George's mind there leapta swift bird's eye view of another figure. A thin, nervous,suspicious-eyed young man."Where does--what's his name---Greg--come in on all128this ?" he asked. "He'll give up dishing out pills ndpowders, I take it ?""Of course. There will be a laboratory built out at theback. We shall have our own formulas for face creams andbeauty preparations."George suppressed a grin. He wanted to say: "So babyis to have his play pen," but he did not say it. As a cousinhe did not mind being spiteful, but he had an uneasy sensethat Susan's feeling for her husband was a thing to be treatedwith care. It had all the qualities of a dangerous explosive.He wondered, as he had wondered on the day of the funeral,about that queer fish, Gregory. Something odd about thefellow. So nondescript in appearance--and yet, in someway, not nondescript...He looked again at Susan, calmly and radiantly triumphant."You've got the true Abernethie touch," he sid. "Theonly one of the family who has. Pity as far as old Richardwas concerned that you're a woman. If you'd been a boy,I bet he'd have left you the whole caboodle."Susan said slowly: "Yes, I think he would."She paused and then went on:"He didn't like Greg, you know...""Ah." George raised his eyebrows. "His mistake." "Yes.""Oh, well. An,,yvay, things are going well now--all goingaccording to plan. 'As he said the words he was struck by the fact that theyseemed particularly applicable to Susan.The idea made him, just for a moment, a shade uncomfortable.He didn't really like a woman who was so cold-bloodedlyefficient.Changing the subject he said:"By the way, did you get a letter from Helen ? AboutEnderby ?""Yes, I did. This morning. Did you ?""Yes. What are you going to do about it ?""Greg and I thought of going up the week-end after next--if that suits everyone else.Helen seemed to want us alltogether."George laughed shrewdly."Or somebody might choose a more valuable piece offurniture than somebody else ?"Susan laughed."Oh, I suppose there is a proper valuation. But a valuaA.T.F. I29 Etion for probate will be much lower than the things would be in the open market. And besides, I'd quitelike to have afew relics of the founder of the family fortunes. Then I thinkit would be amusing to have one or two really absurd andcharming specimens of the Victorian age in this place. Makea kind of thing of them! That period's coming in now.There was a green malachite table in the drawing-room.You could build quite a colour scheme around it. And perhapsa case of stuffed humming birds---or one of those crownsmade of waxed flowers. Something like that--just as akey-note--can be very effective." "I trust your judgment." "You'll be there, I suppose ?""Oh, I shall be there--to see fair play if nothing else."Susan laughed."What do you bet there will be a grand family row ? "she asked."Rosamund will probably want your green malachite tablefor a stage set I"Susan did not laugh. Instead she frowned."Have you seen Rosamund lately ?""I have not seen beautiful Cousin Rosamund since we allcame back third-class from the funeral.""I've seen her once or twice... She--she seemed ratherodd--""What was the matter with her ? Trying to think ?" "No. She seemed---well--upset.""Upset about coming into a lot of money and being able toput on some perfectly frightful play in which Michael canmake an ass of himself ?""Oh, that's going ahead and it does sound frightful--butall the same, it may be a success. Michael's good, youknow. He can put himself across the footlights--or whateverthe term is. He's not like Rosamund, who's just beautifuland ham.""Poor beautiful ham Rosamund.""All the same Rosamund is not quite so dumb as one mightthink. She says things that are quite shrewd, sometimes.Things that you wouldn't have imagined she'd even noticed.It's--it's quite disconcerting.""Quite like our Aunt Cora ""Yes..."A momentary uneasiness descended on them both--conjuredup it seemed, by the mention of Cora Lansquenet.Then George said with a rather elaborate air of unconcern:13o"Talking of Cora--what about that companion woman ofhers ? I rather think something ought to be done about her.""Done about her ? What do you mean ?""Well, it's up to the family, so to speak. I mean I'vebeen thinking Cora was our Aunt--and it occurred to me thatthis woman mayn't find it easy to get another post.""That occurred to you, did it ?""Yes. People are so careful of their skins. I don't saythey'd actually think that this Gilchrist female would takea hatchet to them--but at the back of their minds they'd feelthat it might be unlucky. People are superstitious.""How odd that you should have thought of all that,George ? How would you know about things like that ?"George said dryly:"You forget that I'm a lawyer. I see a lot of the queer,illogical side of people. What I'm getting at is, that I thinkwe might do something about the woman, give her a smallallowance or something, to tide her over, or find some officepost for her if she's capable of that sort of thing. I feel ratheras though we ought to keep in touch with her.""You needn't worry," said Susan. Her voice was dry andironic. "I've seen to things.She's gon, to Timothy andMaude."George looked startled."I say, Susan is that wise ?""It was the best thing I could think of--at the moment."George looked at her curiously."You're very sure of yourself, aren't you, Susan ? Youknow what you're doing and you don't have--regrets."Susan said lightly:"It's a waste of time--having regrets."CHAPTER XVIIMIC}AL ?ossa,) the letter across the table to Rosamund."What about it ?""Oh, we'll go. Don't you think so ?"Michael said slowly:"It might be as well.""There might be some jewellery... Of course all thethings in the house are quite hideotm--stuffed birds and waxflowers--ugh l""Yes. Bit of a mausoleum. As a matter of fact I'd like131to make a sketch or two---articulaxly in that drawing-room.The mantelpiece, for instance, and that very odd shaped couch.They'd be just right for The Baronet's Progress--if we reviveit."He got ap and looked at his watch."That reminds me. I must go round and see Rosenheim.Don't expect me until rather late this evening. I'm diningwith Oscar and we're going into the question of taking up thatoption and how it fits in with the American offer.""Darling Oscar. He'll be pleased to see you after all thistime. Give him my love."Michael looked at her sharply. He no longer smiled andhis face had an alert predatory look."What do you mean--after all this time ? Anyone wouldthink I hadn't seen him for months.""Well, you haven't, have you ?" murmured Rosamund."Yes, I have. We lunched together only a week ago.""How funny. He must have forgotten about it. He rangup yesterday and said he hadn't seen you since the first nightof Tilly Looks West.""The old fool must be off his head."Michael laughed. Rosamund, her eyes wide and blue,oked at him without emotion."You think I'm a fool, don't you, Mick ?"Michael protested."Darling, of course I don't.""Yes, you do. But I'm not an absolute nitwit. You didn'tgo near Oscar that day. I know where you did go.""Rosamund darling--what do you mean ?""I mean I know where you really were..."Michael, his attractive face uncertain, stared at his wife.She stared back at him, placid, unruffled.How very disconcerting, he suddenly thought, a reallyempty stare could be.He said rather unsuccessfully:"I don't know what you're driving at...""I just meant it's rather sill,y, telling me a lot of lies.""Look here, RosamundHe had started to bluster--but he stopped, taken abackas his wife said softly:"We do want to take up this option and put this play on,don't we ?""Want to ? It's the part I've always dreamed must existsomewhere.""Yes--that's what I mean.""Just what do you mean ?""Well--it's worth a good deal, isn't it ? /3ut one mustn'ttake too many risks."He stared at her and said slowly:"It's yo,,ur money--I know that. If yo don't want torisk it''It's our money, darling." Rosamund tressed it.think that's rather important.""Listen, darling.The part of Eileen-At would bearwriting up."Rosamund smiled.I don't think--really--I want to play it. ,"My dear girl." lichael was aghast. "at s come overyou ? :""Nothing.""Yes, there is, you've been different ltely--mdYnervous,what is it ?""Nothing. I only want you to be---careful, ,,Mick." "Careful about what ? I'm always careful. -. "No,I don't think you are. You alway thnk you canget away with things and that everyone will elieve.wha-teve, r,you want them to. You were stupid about 0car that day.Michael flushed angrily."And what about you ? You said you were going shoppingwith Jane. You didn't. Jane's in America, has been forweeks.""Yes," said Rosamund. "That was stupirl, too. I reallyjust went for a walk in Regent's Park."Michael looked at her curiously."Regent's Park ? You never went for a vlk in Regent'sPark in your life. What's it all about ? IJave you got aboy friend ? You may say what you like, osamund, you have , been different lately. Why ?"I ye been--thnkng about things. About vh.at. t.o do...Michael came round the table to her in a satslyng spontaneousrush. His voice held fervour as he cried:".Darling--you know I love you madly l" , . .,She responded satisfactorily to the embrace, our as meydrew apart he was struck again disagreeably b the odd calculationin those beautiful eyes."Whatever I'd done, you'd always forgive me, wouldn'tyou ? "he demanded."I suppose so," said Rosamund vaguely. ,, That's not thepoint. You see, it's all different now. We,ve got to thinkand plan."133"Xlink and plan what ?"Rosamund, frowning, said:"Things aren't over when you've done them. It's reallya sort of beginning and then one's got to arrange what to donext, and what's important and what is n))t.""Rosamund..."She sat, her face perplexed, her wide gaze on a middledistance in which Michael, apparently, did not feature.At the third repetition of her name, she started slightly andcame out of her reverie."What did you say ?""I asked you what you were thinking about...""Oh ? Oh yes, I was wondering if I'd go down to--whatis it ?--Lytchett St. Mary, and see that Miss Somebody--theone who was with Aunt Cora.""But why ?""Well, she'll be going away soon, won't she ? To relativesor someone. I don't think we ought to let her go away untilwe've asked her.""Asked her what ?""Asked her who killed Aunt Cora ?"Michael stared."You mean--you think she knows ?"Rosamund said rather absently:"Oh yes, I expect so... She lived there, you see.""But she'd have told the police.""Oh, I don't mean she knows that way--I just mean thatshe's probably quite sure. Because of what Uncle Richardsaid when he went down there." He did go down there, youknow, Susan told me so."But she wouldn't have heard what he said.""Oh yes, she would, darling." Rosamund sounded likesomeone arguing with an unreasonable child."Nonsense, I can hardly see old Richard Abernethie dis-cussinghis suspicions of his family before an outsider.""Well, of course. She'd have heard it through the door.""Eavesdropping, you mean ?""I expect so--in fact I'm sure. It must be so deadly dullshut up, two women in a cottage and nothing ever happeningexcept washing up and the sink and putting the cat out andthings like that. Of course she listened and read letters--anyonewould."Michael looked at her with something faintly approachingdismay."Would you ?" he demanded bluntly.I34"I wouldn't go and be a companion in the country."Rosamund shuddered. "I'd rather die.""I meant--would you read letters and--and all that ?"Rosamund said calmly:"If I wanted to know, yes.Everybody does, don't youthink so ?"The limpid gaze met his."One just wants to know," said Rosamund. "One doesn'twant to do anything about it. I expect that's how shfeels--Miss Gilchrist, I mean, But I'm certain she knows."Michael said in a stifled voice:"Rosamund, who do you think killed Cora ?And oldRichard ?"Once again that limpid blue gaze met his."Darling--don't be absurd... You know as well as I do.But it's much, much better never to mention it. So wewon't."CHAPTER XVIIIFROM his S-Ar by the fireplace in the library, Hercule Poirotlooked at the assembled company.His eyes passed thoughtfully over Susan, sitting upright,looking vivid and animated, over her husband, sitting near her,his expression rather vacant and his fingers twisting a loop ofstring; they went on to George Crossfield, debonair anddistinctly pleased with himself, talking about card sharpers'on atlantic cruises to Rosamund, who said mechanically,"How extraordinary, darling. But why ?" in a completelyuninterested voice; went on to Michael with his very individualtype of haggard ood looks and his very apparent charm; toHelen, poised ad slightly remote; to Timothy, comfortablysettled in the best armchair with an extra cushion at his back;and Mande, sturdy and thick-set, in devoted attendance, andfinally to the figure sitting with a tinge of apology justbeyond the range of the family circle---the figure of MissGilchrist wearing a rather peculiar "dressy" blouse. Pre-sently,he judged, she would get up, murmur an excuse andleave the family gathering and go up to her room. MissGilchrist, he thought, knew her place. She had learned it thehard way.Hercule Poirot sipped his after-dinner coffee and betweenhalf-closed lids made his appraisal.He had wanted them there--all together, and he had gotthem. And what, he thought to himself, was he going to dowith them now ? He felt a sudden weary distaste for goingon with the business. Why was that, he wondered ? Was itthe influence of Helen Abernethie ? There was a quality ofpassive resistance about her that seemed unexpectedly strong.Had she, while apparently graceful and unconcerned, managedto impress her own reluctance upon him ? She was averse tothis raking up of the details of old Richard's death, he knewthat. She wanted it left alone, left to die out into oblivion.Poirot was not surprised by that. What did surprise himwas his own disposition to agree with her.Mr. Entwhistle's account of the family had, he realised,been admirable. He had described all these people shrewdlyand well. With the old lawyer's knowledge and appraisal toguide him, Poirot had wanted to see for himself. He hadfancied that, meeting these people intimately, he would havea very shrewd idea--not of how and when--(those were questionswith which he did not propose to concern himself.Murder had been possible--that was all he needed to knowbut of who. For Hercule Poirot had a lifetime of experiencebehind him, and as a man who deals with pictures can recognisethe artist, so Poirot believed he could recognise a likely typeof the amateur criminal who will--if his own particular needarises be prepared to kill.But it was not to be so easy.Because he could visualise almost all of those people as apossible--though not a probable--murderer. George mightkill--as the cornered rat kills. Susan calmly--efficiently--tofurther a plan. Gregory because he had that queer morbidstreak which discounts and invites, almost craves, punishment.Michael because he was ambitious and had a murderer's cocksurevanity. Rosamund because she was/righteningly simplein outlook. Timothy because he had hated and resented hisbrother and had craved the power his brother's money wouldgive. Maude because Timothy was her child and where herchild was concerned she would be ruthless. Even Miss Gilchrist,he thought, might have contemplated murder if itcould have restored to her the Willow Tree in its ladylikeglory 1And Helen ? He could not see Helen as committing murder.She was too civilised--too removed from violence. And sheand her husband had surely loved Richard Abernethie.Poirot sighed to himself. There were to be no short cuts to the truth, Instead he would have to adopt alonger, but a36reasonably sure method. There would have to be conversation. Much conversation. For in the long run, either througha lie, or through truth, people were bound to give themselvesaway ....He had been introduced by Helen to the gathering, and hadset to work to overcome the almost universal annoyancecaused by his presence--a foreign stranger !--in this familygathering. He had used his eyes and his ears. He hadwatched and listened--openly and behind doors! He hadnoticed affinities, antagonisms, the unguarded words thatarose as always when property was to be divided. He hadengineered adroitly tte--ttes, walks upon the terrace, andhad made his deductions and observations. He had talkedwith Miss Gilchrist about the vanished glories of her teashopand about the correct composition of brioches and chocolatedclairs and had visited the kitchen garden with her to discussthe proper use of herbs in cooking. He had spent some longhalf-hours listening to Timothy talking about his own healthand about the effect upon it of paint.Paint ? Poirot frowned. Somebody else had said something about paint--Mr. Entwhistle ?There had also been discussion of a different kind of painting. Pierre Lansquenet as a painter. Cora Lansquenet'spaintings, rapturised over by Miss Gilchrist, dismissed scorn,fully by Susan. "Just like picture ,postcards," she had said.' She did them from postcards, too.Miss Gilchrist had been quite upset by that and had saidsharply that dear Mrs. Lansquenet always painted fromNature."But I bet she cheated," said Susan to Poirot when MissGilchrist had gone out of the room. "In fact I know shedid, though I won't upset the old pussy by saying so.""And how do you know ?"Poirot watched the strong confident line of Susan's chin."She will always be sure, this one," he, thought."Andperhaps sometime, she will be too sure...Susan was going on."I'll tell you, but don't pass it on to the Gilchrist. One picture is of Polflexan, the cove and the lighthouseand thepier--the usual aspect that all amateur artists sit down andsketch. But the pier was blown up in the war, and sinceAunt Cora's sketch was done a couple of years ago, it can't verywell be from Nature, can it ? But the postcards they sellthere still show the pier as it used to be. There was one inher bedroom drawer. So Aunt Cora started her' rough sketch'37down there, I expect, and then finished it surreptitiouslylater at home from a po,s, tcard I It's funny, isn't it, the waypeople get caught out ? '"Yes, it is, as you say, funny." He paused, and thenthought that the opening was a good one."You do not remember me, Madame," he said, "but Iremember you. This is not the first time that I have seenyou."She stared at him. Poirot nodded with great gusto."Yes, yes, it is so. I was inside an automobile, wellwrapped up and from the window I saw you.. You weretalking to one of the mechanics in the garage. You do notnotice me--it is natural I am inside the car--an elderlymuffled-up foreigner! But I notice you, for you are youngand agreeable to look at and you stand there in the sun. Sowhen I arrive here, I say to myself, ' Tiens I what a coincidence I '""A garage ? Where ? When was this ?""Oh, a little time ago---a week--no, more. For the moment,'' said Poirot disingenuously and with a full recollectionof the King's Arms garage in his mind, "I cannot rememberwhere. I travel so much all over this country.""Looking for a suitable house to buy for your refugees ?""Yes. There is so much to take into consideration, yousee. Priceneighbourhood--suitability for conversion.""I suppose you'll have to pull the house about a lot ? Lotsof horrible partitions.""In the bedrooms, yes, certainly. But most of the groundfloor rooms we shall not touch." He paused before going on."Does it sadden you, Madame, that this old family mansionof yours should go this way--to strangers ?""Of course not." Susan looked amused. "I think it's anexcellent idea. It's an impossible place for anybody to thinkof living in as it is. And I've nothing to be sentimental about.It's not rny old home. My mother and father lived in Lond,on.We just came here for Christmas sometimes. Actually Ivealways thought it quite hideous---an almost indecent temple towealth.""The altars are different now. There is the building in,and the concealed lighting and the expensive simplicity. Butwealth still has its temples, Madame. I understand--I am not,I hope, indiscreet--that you yourself are planning such aned"edifice ? Everything d lxwand no expense spar .Susan laughed."Hardly a temple--it's just a place of business."$8"Perhaps the name does not matter Butit will costmuchmoney--that is true, is it not ?""Everything'swickedly expensive nowadays. But theinitialoutlay will be worth while, I think.""Tell me something about these plans of yours. It amazesmeto find a beautiful young woman so practical, so competent.In my young days--a long time ago, I admit--beautifulwomenthought only of their pleasures, of cosmetics, of latoilette.""Women still think a great deal about their faces--that'swhereI come in.""Tellme."Andshe had told him. Told him with a wealth of detailandwith a great deal of unconscious self-revelation. Heappreciatedher business acumen, her boldness of planningandher grasp of detail. A good bold planner, sweeping allsideissues away. Perhaps a little ruthless as all those whoplanboldly must be ....Watchingher, he had said:"Yes, youwill succeed. You will go ahead. How fortunatethat youare not restricted, as so many are, by poverty. Onecannot gofar without the capital outlay. To have had thesecreative ideasand to have been frustrated by lack of means-that wouldhave been unbearable.""I couldn'thave borne it! But I'd have raised moneysomehow orother--got someone to back me.""Ahl ofcourse. Your uncle, whose house this was, wasrich. Evenif he had not died, he would, as you express it,have 'staked' you.""Oh no,he wouldn't. Uncle Richard was a bit of a stickin-the-mudwherewomen were concerned. If I'd been aman "A quick flash of anger swept across her face. "Hemade mevery angry.""I see--yes,I see...""The oldshouldn't stand in the way of the young. I---oh,I begyour pardon." 'HerculePoirotlaughed easily and twirled his moustache."I amold, yes. But I do not impede youth. There is noone whoneeds to wait for my death.""What ahorrid idea.""But youare a realist, Madame. Let us admit without more adothat the world is full of the young--or even the middle-aged--who wait,patiently or impatiently, for the death ofsomeone whose decease will give them if not affluence --then opportunity."I39"Opportunity I "Susan said, taking a deep breath. "That'swhat one needs."Poirot who had been looking beyond her, said gaily:"And here is your husband come to join our little discussionWetalk, Mr. Banks, of opportunity. Opportunitythegolden---opportunity, who must. be grasped with both hands.How far in conscxence can one go ? Let us hear your views?"Buthe was not destined to hear the views of Gregory Bankson opportunity or .on anything else. In fact he had foundit next to impossible to talk to Gregory Banks at all. Bankshad a curious fluid quality. Whether by his own wish, orby that of his wife, he seemed to have no liking for tte-h-ttes or quiet discussions. No, "conversation"with Gregoryhad failed.Poirot had talked with Maude Abernethie--alsoabout paint (the smell of) and how fortunate it had beenthat Timothy had been able to come to Enderby, and how kind ithad been of Helen to extend a.n invitation to MissGilchrist also."For really she is most useful. Timothy sooften feels like a snack--and one cannot ask too much ofother people's servants but there is a gas ring in a little room offthe pantry, so that Miss Gilchrist can warm up Ovaltine orBenger's there without disturbing, anybody. And she's sowilling about fetching things, she s quite willing to run up anddown stairs a dozen times a day. Oh yes, I feel that it wasreally quite Providential that she should have lost her nerveabout staying alone in the house as she did, though I admit it vexedme atthe time.""Lost her nerve ?" Poirotwas interested.He listened whilst Mande gave him an accountof l[iss Gilchrist's sudden collapse."She was frightened, you say ? And yetcould ,n, of exactlysay why ? Thatis interesting. Very interesting.' "I put it downmyselfto delayed shock." "Perhaps.""Once, during the war, when a bombdropped about a mile away fromus, I remember Timothy"Poirot abstracted his mind from Timothy."Had anything p,,ar[.icularhappened that day ? "he asked. "On what day ? Maude looked blank. "The day that Miss Gilchrist wasupset.""Oh, that--no, I don't think so.It seems to have been coming on ever since she left LychettSt. Mary, or so she said. She didn't seem tomindwhenshewasthere."x4oAnd the result, Poirot thought, had been a piece of poisonedwedding cake. Not so very surprising that Miss Gilchrist wasfrightened after that Andeven when she had removedherselfto the peaceful country round Stansfield Grange, the fearhad lingered. More than lingered. Grown. Why grown? Surely attending on an exacting hypochondriac like Timothymust be so exhausting that nervous fears would be likelyto be swallowed up in exasperation ?Butsomething in that house had made Miss Gilchrist afraid. What? Did she know herself ?Findinghimself alone with Miss Gilchrist for a brief space beforedinner, Poirot had sailed into the subject with an exaggeratedforeign curiosity."Impossible,you comprehend, for me to mention the matterof murder to members of the family. But I am intrigued.Who would not be ? A brutal crime--a sensitive artistattacked in a lonely cottage. Terrible for her family. Butterrible, also, I imagine, for you. Since Mrs. Timothy Abernethiegives me to understand that you were there at thetime ?""Yes,I was. And if you'll excuse me, M. Pontarlier, Idon't want to talk about it.""Iunderstand---oh yes, I completely understand."Itavingsaid this, Poirot waited. And, as he had thought, MissGilchrist immediately did begin to talk about it.Heheard nothing from her that he had not heard before, buthe played his part with perfect sympathy, uttering little criesof comprehension and listening with an absorbed interest whichMiss Gilchrist could not but help enjoy.Notuntil she had exhausted the subject of what she herself hadfelt, and what the doctor had said, and how kind Mr. Entwhistlehad been, did Poirot proceed cautiously to the nextpoint."Youwere wise, I think, not to remain alone down in that cottage.""Icouldn't have done it, M. Pontarlier. I really couldn't havedone it.""No.I understand even that you were afraid to remain alonein the house of Mr. Timothy Abernethie whilst they came here?"MissGilchrist looked guilty.'I'm terribly ashamed about that. So foolish really. Itwas just a kind of panic I had--I really don't know"But of course one knows why. You had just recoveredfrom a dastardly attempt to poison you "x4xMiss Gilchrist here sighed and said she simply couldn'tunderstand it. Why should anyone try to poison her ?"But obviously, my dear lady, because this criminal, thisassassin, thought that you knew something that might leadto his apprehension by the police.""But what could I know ? Some dreadful tramp, or semi-crazedcreature.""If it was a tramp. It seems to me unlikely""Oh, please, M. Pontarlier--" Miss Gilchrist becamesuddenly very upset."Don't suggest such things. I don'twant to believe it.""You do not want to believe what ?""I don't want to believe that it wasn't--I mean--that itwas.She paused, confused."And yet," said Poirot shrewdly, "you do believe.""Oh, I don't. I don't I""But I think you do. That is why you are frightened...You are still frightened, are you not ?""Oh, no, not since I came here. So many people. Andsuch a nice family atmosphere. Oh, no, everything seemsquite all right here.""It seems to me--you must excuse my interest--I am anold man, somewhat infirm and a great part of my time isgiven to idle speculation on matters which interest me---itseems to me that there must have been some definite occurrenceat Stansfield Grange which, so to speak, brought yourfears to a head. Doctors recognise nowadays how much takesplace in our subconscious.""Yes, yes--I know they say so.""And I think your subconscious fears might have beenbrought to a point by some small concrete happening, something,perhaps, quite extraneous, serving, shall we say, as afocal point."Miss Gilchrist seemed to lap this up eagerly."I'm sure you are right," she said."Now what, should you think, was this--er---extraneouscircumstance ?"Miss Gilchrist pondered a moment, and then said, unexpectedly:"I think, you know, M. Pontarlier, it was the nun."Before Poirot could take this up, Susan and her husbandcame in, closely followed by Helen."A nun," thought Poirot... "Now where, in all this,have I heard something about a nun ?"142lie resolved to lead the conversation on to nuns sometimein the course of the evening.CHAPTER XIXTHE FAm- had all been polite to M. Pontarlier, the representativeof U.N.A.R.C.O. And how right he had been tohave chosen to designate himself by initials. Everyone hadaccepted U.N.A.R.C.O. as a matter of course--had evenpretended to know all about it I How averse human beingswere ever to admit ignorance! An exception had beenRosamund, who had asked him wonderingly: "But what is it ? I never heard of it ?" Fortunately no oneelse hadbeen there at the time. Poirot had explained the organisationin such a way that anyone but Rosamund would have feltabashed at having displayed ignorance of such a well-known,world-wide institution. Rosamund, however, had only saidvaguely, "Oh! refugees all over again. I'm so tired ofrefugees." Thus voicing the unspoken reaction of many,who were usually too conventional to express themselves sofrankly.M. Pontarlier was, therefore, now accepted--as a nuisancebut also as a nonentity. He had become, as it were, a piece offoreign ddcor. The general opinion was that Helen shouldhave avoided having him here this particular week-end, butas he was here they must make the best of it. Fortunatelythis queer little foreigner did not seem to know much English.Quite often he did not understand what you said to him, andwhen everyone was speaking more or less at once he seemedcompletely at sea. He appeared to be interested only inrefugees and post-war conditions, and his vocabulary onlyincluded those subjects. Ordinary chit-chat appeared tobewilder him. More or less forgotten by all, Hercule Poirotleant back in his chair, sipped his coffee and observed, as a catmay observe, the twitterings, and comings and goings of aflock of birds. The cat is not ready yet to make its spring.After twenty-four hours of prowling round the house andexamining its contents, the heirs of Richard Abernethie wereready to state their preferences, and, if need be, to fight forthem.The subject of conversation was, first, a certain Spodedinner dessert service off which they had just been eatingdessert."I don't suppose I have long to live," said Timothy in a43faint melancholy voice. "And Maude and I have no children.It is hardly worth while our burdening ourselves with uselesspossessions. But for sentiment's sake I should like to havethe old dessert service. I remember it in the dear old days.It's out of fashion, of course, and I understand dessert serviceshave very little value nowadays--but there it is. I shall bequite content with that--and perhaps the Boule Cabinet inthe White Boudoir.""You're too late, Uncle," George spoke with debonairinsouciance. "I asked Helen to mark off the Spode serviceto me this morning."Timothy became purple in the face."Mark it off mark it off ? What do you mean ? Nothing'sbeen settled yet. And what do you want with a dessert service.You're not married.""As a matter of fact I collect Spode. And this is reallya splendid specimen. But it's quite all right about the BouleCabinet, Uncle. I wouldn't have that as a gift."Timothy waved aside the Boule Cabinet."Now look here, young George. You can't go butting in,in this way. I'm an older man than you are--and I'mRichard's only surviving brother. That dessert service is"Why not take the Dresden service, Uncle ? A very fineexample and I'm sure just as full of sentimental memories.Anyway, the Spode's mine. First come, first served.""Nonsense--nothing of the kind I" Timothy spluttered.Mande said sharply:"Please don't upset your uncle, George. It's very bad forhim. Naturally he will take the Spode if he wants to I Thefirst choice is his, and you young people must come afterwards.He was Richard's brother, as he says, and you are only anephew.""And I can tell you this, young man." Timothy wasseething with fury. "If Richard had made a proper will, thedisposal of the contents of this place would have been entirelyin my hands. That's the way the property should have beenleft, and if it wasn't, I can only suspect undue influence. Yes--and I repeat it---ndue influence."Timothy glared at his nephew."A preposterous will," he said. "Preposterous I"He leant back, placed a hand to his heart, and groaned:"This is very bad for me. If I could have--a little brandy."Miss Gflchrist hurried to get it and returned with therestorative in a small glass.x44"Here you are, Mr. Abernetkie. Please--please don'tex,cite yo, urself. Are you sure you oughtn't to go up to be,d, ?"Don t be a fool." Timothy swallowed the brandy. Goto bed ? I intend to protect my interests.""Really, George, I'm surprised at you," said Maude. "What your uncle says is perfectly true. His wishescomefirst. If he wants the Spode dessert service he shall haveit I""It s qmte hdeous anyway, sad Susan."Hold your tongue, Susan," said Timothy.The thin young man who sat beside Susan raised his head.In a voice that was a little shriller than his ordinary tones,he said:"Don't speak like that to my wife I 'He half rose from his seat.Susan said quickly: "It's all right, Greg. I don't mind.""But I do."Helen said: "I think it would be graceful on,your part,George, to let your uncle have the dessert service.Timothy,, spluttered indignantly: '" There's no 'letting'about it 1But George, with a slight bow to Helen said, "Your wishis law, Aunt Helen. I abandon my claim.""You didn't really want it, anyway, did you ? "said Helen.He cast a sharp glance at her, then grinned:"The trouble with you, Aunt Helen, is that you're too sharpby half! You see more than you're meant to see. Don'tworry, Uncle Timothy, the Spode is yours. Just my ideaof fun.""Fun, indeed." Maude Abernethie was indignant. "Youruncle might have had a heart attack I""Don't you believe it," said George cheerfully. "UncleTimothy will probably outlive us all. He's what is known asa creaking gate."Timothy leaned forward balefully."I don't wonder," he said," that Richard was disappointedin you.""Wat's that ?" The good humour went out of George'sface."You came up here after Mortimer died, expecting to stepinto his shoes--expecting that Richard would make you hisheir, didn't you ? But my poor brother soon took your measure. He knew where the money would go ifyou hadcontrol of it. I'm surprised that he even left you a part ofhis fortune. He knew where it would go. Horses, Gambling,x45Monte Carlo, foreign Casinos. P,.erhaps worse. He suspectedyou of not being straight, didn t he ?" George, a white dint appearing each side of his nose, saidquietly:"Hadn't you better be careful of what you are saying ?""I wasn't well enough to come here for the funeral," saidTimothy slowly, "but Maude told me what Cora said. Coraalways was a fool--but there may have been something in itAnd if so, I know who I'd suspect""Timothy!" Mande stood up, solid, calm, a tower offorcefulness. "You have had a very trying evening. Youmust consider your health. I can't have you getting ill again.Come up with me. You must take a sedative and go straightto bed. Timothy and I, Helen, will take the Spode dessertservice and the Boule Cabinet as momentoes of Richard. Thereis no objection to that, I hope ?"Her glance swept round the company. Nobody spoke, andshe marched out of the room supporting Timothy with a handunder his elbow, waving aside Miss Gilchrist who was hoveringhalf-heartedly by the door.George broke the silence after they had departed."Femme formidable I" he said. "That describes AuntMaude exactly. I should hate ever to impede her triumphalprogress."Miss Gilchrist sat down again rather uncomfortably andmurmured:"Mrs. Abernethie is always so kind."The remark fell rather flat.Michael Shane laughed suddenly and said: "You know,I'm enjoying all this 1 ' The Voysey Inheritance ' to the life.By the way, Rosamund and I want that malachite table inthe drawing-room.""Oh, no," cried Susan. "I wnt that.""Here we go again," said George, raising his eyes to theceiling."Well, we' needn't get angry about it," said Susan. "The reason I want it is for my new Beauty shop. Justa note ofcolour--and I shall put a great bouquet of wax flowers on it.It would look wonderful. I can find wax flowers easily enough,but a green malachite table isn't so common.""But, darling," said Rosamund, "that's just why we wantit. For the new set. As you say, a note of colour--and so absolutely period. And either wax flowers orstuffed hummingbirds. It will be absolutely right.""I see what you mean, Rosamund," said Susan. "Butx46I don't think you've got as good a case as I have. You couldeasily have a painted malachite table for the stage--it wouldlook just the same. But for my salon I've got to have thegenuine thing.""Now, ladies," said George. "What about a sportingdecision ? Why not toss for it ? Or cut the cards ? All quitein keeping with the period of the table."Susan smiled pleasantly."Rosamund and I will talk about it to-morrow," shesaid.She seemed, as usual, quite sure of herself. George lookedwith some interest from her face to that of Rosamund.Rosamund's face had a vague, rather far-away expression."Which one will you back, Aunt Helen ? "he asked. "Aneven money chance, I'd say. Susan has determination, butRosamund is so wonderfully single-minded.""Or perhaps not humming birds," said Rosamund. "Oneof those big Chinese vases would make a lovely lamp, witha gold shade.". Miss Gilchrist hurried into placating speech."This house is full of so many beautiful things," she said."That green table would look wonderful in your new estab-lishment,I'm sure, Mrs. Banks. I've never seen one like it.It must be worth a lot of money.""It will be deducted from my share of the estate, of course,"said Susan."I'm so sorrymI didn't mean ' Miss Gilchrst wascovered with confusion."It may be deducted from our share of the estate," Michaelpointed out. "With the wax flowers thrown in.""They look so right on that table," Miss Gilchrist mur-mured."Really artistic. Sweetly pretty."But nobody was paying any attention to Miss Gilchrist'8well-meant trivialities.Greg said, speaking again in that high nervous voice:"Susan wants that table."There was a momentary stir of unease, as though, by hiswords, Greg had set a different musical key.Helen said quickly:"And what do you really want, George ? Leaving out theSpode service."George grinned and the tension relaxed."Rather a shame to bait old Timothy," he said. "But hereally is quite unbelievable. He's had his own way in every-thingso iong that he's become quite pathological about it."47"You have to humour an invalid, Mr. Crossfield," saidMiss Gilchrist."Ruddy old hypochondriac, that's what he is," saidGeorge."Of course he is," Susan agreed. "I don't believe there'sanything whatever the matter with him, do you, Rosamund? '"What ?""Anything the matter with Uncle Timothy.""No--no, I shouldn't think so." Rosamund was vague.She apologised. "I'm sorry. I was thinking about whatlighting would be right for the table.""You see ?" said George. "A woman of one idea. Yourwife's a dangerous woman, Michael. I hope you realise it.""I realise it," said Michael rather grimly.George went on with every appearance of enioyment."The Battle of the Table l To be fought to-morrow--politely--butwith grim determination: We ought all to takesides. I back Rosamund who looks so sweet and yielding andisn't. Husbands, presumably back their own wives. MissGilchrist ? On Susan's side, obviously.""Oh, really, Mr. Crossfield, I wouldn't venture to----""Aunt Helen ?" George paid no attention to MissGilchrist's flutterings. "You have the casting vote. Oh, er--I forgot. M. Pontarlier ?""Pardon ?" Hercule Poirot looked blank.George considered explanations, but decided against it.The poor old boy hadn't understood a word of what wasgoing on. He said: "Just a family joke.""Yes, yes, I comprehend." Poirot smiled amiably."So yours is the casting vote, Aunt Helen. Whose sideare you on ?"Helen smiled."Perhaps I want it myself, George."She changed the subject deliberately, turning to her foreignguest."I'm afraid this is all very dull for you, M. Pontarlier ?""Not at all, Madame. I consider myself privileged to beadmitted to your family life--" he bowed. "I would liketo say--I cannot quite express my meaning--my regret thatthis house had to pass out of your hands into the hands ofstrangers. It is without doubt--a great sorrow.""No, indeed, we don't regret at all," Susan assured him."You are very amiable, Madame. It will be, let me tellyou, perfection here for my elderly sufferers of persecution.What a haven I What peace I beg you to remember that,x48when the harsh feelings come to you as assuredly they must.I hear that there was also the question of a school cominghere---not a regular school, a conventwrun by religeuses--by'nuns,' I think you say ? You would have preferred that.perhaps ?""Not at all," said George."The Sacred Heart of Mary," continued Poirot. "Fortunately, owing to the kindness of an unknown benefactorwe were able to make a slightly higher offer." He addressedMiss Gilckrist directly. "You do not like nuns, I think ?"Miss Gilchrist flushed and looked embarrassed.,"Oh, really, Mr. Pontarlier, you mustn't--I mean, it'snothing personal. But I never do see that it's right to shutyourself up from the world in that way--not necessary, I mean,and really almost selfish, though not teaching ones, of course, or the ones that go about amongst thepoor--because I'm surethey're thoroughly unselfish women and do a lot of good.""I simply can't imagine wanting to be a nun," said Susan. "It's very becoming," said Rosamund. "Youremember--when they revived The Miracle last year.Sonia Wellslooked absolutely too glamorous for words.""What beats me," said George, "is why it should bepleasing to the Almighty to dress oneself up in medieval dress.For after all, that's all a nun's dress is. Thoroughly cumbersome, unhygienic and impractical.""And it makes them look so alike, doesn't it ?" said MissGilchrist. "It's silly, you know, but I got quite a turn whenI was at Mrs. Abernethie's and a nun came to the door,collecting. I got it into my head she was the same as a nunwho came to the door on the day of the inquest on poor Mrs.Lansquenet at Lychett St. Mary. I felt, you know, almost asthough she had been following me round I""I thought nuns always collected in couples," said George."Surely a detective story hinged on that point once ?""There was only one this time," said Miss Gilchrist."Perhaps they've got to economise," she added vaguely."And anyway it couldn't have been the same nun, for theother one was collecting for an organ for St.--Barnabas, Ithink--and this one was for something quite different--somethingto do with children.""But they both had the same type of features ?" HerculePoirot asked. He sounded interested. Miss Gilchrist turnedto him."I suppose that must be it. The upper lip--almost asthough she had a moustache. I think you know, that that isx49really what alarmed me--being in a rather nervous state atthe time, and remembering those stories during the war ofnuns who were really men and in the Fifth Column andlande by parachute. Of course it was very foolish of me.I knew that afterwards.""A nun would be a good disguise," said Susan thoughtfully."It hides your feet.""The truth is," said George, "that one very seldom looksproperly at anyone. That's why one gets such wildly differingaccounts of a person from different witnesses in court. You'dbe surprised. A man is often described as tall--short; thin--stout; fair--dark; dressed in a dark--light--suit; and soon. There's usually one reliable observer, but one has to makeup one's mind who that is.""Another queer thing," said Susan," is that you sometimescatch sight of yourself in a mirror unexpectedly and don'tknow who it is. It,just looks vaguely familiar. And you sayto yourself, 'That s somebody I know quite well.., andthen suddenly realise it's yourself I"George said: "It would be more difficult still if you couldreally see yourself---and not a mirror image.""Why ?" asked Rosamund, looking puzzled."Because, don't you see, nobody ever sees themselves--asthey appear to other people. They always see themselves in aglass--that is--as a reversed image.""But does that look any different ?""Oh, ye, s," said Susan quickly. "It must. Because people'sfaces aren t the same both sides. Their eyebrows are different,and their mouths go up one side, and their noses aren't reallystraight. You can see with a pencil--who's got a pencil ?"Somebody produced a pencil, and they experimented,holding a pencil each side of the nose and laughing to see theridiculous variation in angle.The atmosphere now had lightened a good deal. Everybodywas in a good humour. They were no longer the heirs ofRichard Abernethie gathered together for a division of prop-erty.They were a cheerful and normal set of people gatheredtogether for a week-end in the country.Only Helen Abernethie remained silent and abstracted.With a sigh, Hercule Poirot rose to his feet and bade hishostess a polite good night."And perhaps, Madame, I had better say good-bye. Mytrain departs itself at nine o'clock to-morrow morning. Thatis very early. So I will thank you now for all your kindnessand hospitality. The date of possession--that will be arranged15owith the good Mr. Entwhistle. To suit your convenience, ofcourse.' '"It can be any time you pleae, M. Pontarlier. I--I havefinished all that I came here to do."7, You,will return now to your villa at Cyprus ?"Yes. A little smile curved Helen Abernethie's lips.Poirot said:"You are glad, yes. You have no regrets ?""At leaving England ? Or leaving here, do you mean ?""I meant--leaving here ?""No--no. It's no good, is it, to cling on to the past ?One must leave that behind one.""If one can." Blinking his eyes innocently PoJrot smiledapologetically round on the group of polite faces that surrounded him."Sometimes, is it not, the Past will not be left, will notsuffer itself to pass into oblivion ? It stands at one's elbow--it says ' I am not done with yet.'"Susan gave a rather doubtful laugh. Poirot said:"But I am serious--yes.""You mean," said Michael," that your refugees when theycome here will not be able to put their past sufferings comple,,telybehind them ?",,I did not mean my Refugees."He meant us, darling," said Rosamund. "He meansUncle Richard and Aunt Cora and the hatchet, and all that."She turned to Poirot."Didn't you ?"Poirot looked at her with a blank face. Then he said: "Why do you think that, Madame ?""Because you re a detectve, aren t you That's whyyou're here. N.A.R.C.O., or whatever you call it, is justnonsense, isn't it ?"CHAPTER XXTItERE WAS a moment of extraordinary tenseness. Poirotfelt it, though he himself did not remove his eyes from Rosamund'slovely placid face.He said with a little bow, "You have great perspicacity,Madame.""Not really," said Rosamund. "You were pointed out tome once in a restaurant. I remembered.""But you have not mentioned it--until now ?""I thought it would be more fun not to," said RosamundMichael said in an imperfectly controlled voice: "My--dear girl."Poirot shifted his gaze then to look at him.Michael was angry. Angry and something else--apprehensive?Poirot's eyes went slowly round all the faces. Susan's,angry and watchful; Gregory's dead and shut in; MissGilchrist's, foolish, her mouth wide open; George, wary;Helen, dismayed and nervous ....All those expressions were normal ones under the circumstances.He wished he could have seen their faces a splitsecond earlier, when the words "a detective" fell fromRosamund's lips. For now, inevitably, it could not be quitethe same ....He squared his shoulders and bowed to them. His languageand his accent became less foreign."Yes," he said. "I am a detective."George Crossfield said, the white dints showing once moreeach side of his nose, "Who sent you here ?""I was commissioned to inquire into the circumstances ofRichard Abernethie's death.""By whom ?""For the moment, that does not concern you. But it wouldbe an advantage, would it not, if you could be assured beyondany possible doubt that Richard Abernethie died a naturaldeath ?""Of course he died a natural death. Who says anythingelse ?""Cora Lansquenet said so. And Cora Lansquenet is deadherself."A little wave of uneasiness seemed to sigh through the roomlike an evil breeze."She said it here--in this room," said Susan. "But Ididn't really think ""Didn't you, Susan ?" George Crossfield turned hissardonic glance upon her. "Why pretend any more ? Youwon't take M. Pontarlier in ?""We all thought so really," said Rosamund."And hisname isn't Pontarlier it's Hercules something.""Hercule Poirot--at your service."Poirot bowed.There were no gasps of astonishment or of apprehension.His name seemed to mean nothing at all to them.I52They were less alarmed by it than they had been by thosingle word" detective.""May I ask what conclusions you have come to ?" askedGeorge."He won't tell you, darling," said Rosamund. "Or if hedoes tell you, what he says won't be true."Alone of the company she appeared to be amused.Hercule Poirot looked at her thoughtfully.Itercule Poirot did not sleep well that night. He was perturbed,and he was not quite sure why he was perturbed.Elusive snatches of conversation, various glances, odd move-ments--allseemed fraught with a tantalising significance inthe loneliness of the night. He was on the threshold of sleep,but sleep would not come. Just as he was about to drop off,something flashed into his mind and woke him up again.Paint Timothy and paint. Oil paint--the smell of oil paint--connectedsomehow with Mr. Entwhistle. Paint and Cora.Cora's paintings--picture postcards .... Cora was deceitfulabout her painting... No, back to Mr. Entwhistle--some-thingMr. Entwhistle had said--or was it Lanscombe ? Anun who came to the house on the day that Richard Abernethiedied. A nun with a moustache. A nun at Stansfield Grange---and at Lytchett St. Mary. Altogether too many nuns lRosamund looking glamorous as a nun on the stage. Rosaround--sayingthat he was a detective--and everyone staringat her when she said it. That was the way that they must allhave stared at Cora that day when she said "But he wasmurdered, wasn't he ?" What was it Helen Abernethie hadfelt to be "wrong" on that occasion ? Helen Abernethie--leaving the past behind--going to Cyprus... Helendropping the wax flowers with a crash when he had said4what was it he had said ? He couldn't quite remember ....He slept then, and as he slept he dreamed...He dreamed of the green malachite table. On it was theglass-covered stand of wax flowers--only the whole thing hadbeen painted over with thick crimson oil pa.t. Paint thecolour of blood. He could smell the paint, and Timothy wasgr rang, was saying I m dying--dying.., ths ts the end..And lIaude, standing by, tall and stem, with a large knife ',m,her hand was echoing him, saying "Yes, it'a the end ....53The end--a deathbed, with candles and a nun praying. If hecould just see the nun's face, he would know ....Hercule Poirot woke up--and he did know 1Yes, it was the end ....Though there was still a long way to go.lie sorted out the various bits of the mosaic.Mr. Entwhistle, the smell of paint, Timothy's house andsomething that must be in it--or might be in it... the waxflowers... Helen... Broken glass...Helen Abernethie, in her room, took some time in going tobed. She was thinking.Sitting in front of her dressing-table, she stared at herselfunseeingly in the glass.She hadbeen forced into having Hercule Poirot in the house.She had not wanted it. But Mr. Entwhistle had made it hardfor her to refuse. And now the whole thing had come outinto the open. No question any more of letting RichardAbernethie lie quiet in his grave. All started by those fewwords of Cora's ....That day after the funeral... How had they all looked,she wondered ? How had they looked to Cora ? How hadshe herself looked ?What was it George had said ? About seeing oneself ?There was some quotation, too. To see ourselves as otherssee us .... As others see us.The eyes that were staring into the glass unseeingly suddenlyfocused. She was seeing herself--but not really herself--notherself as others saw her--not as Cora had seen her that day.Her rightmno, her left eyebrow was arched a little higherthan the right. The mouth ? No, the curve of the mouthwas symmetrical. If she met herself she would surely not seemuch difference from this mirror image. Not like Cora.Cora--the picture came quite clearly... Cora, on the dayof the funeral, her head tilted sideways--asking her question--lookingat Helen...Suddenly Helen raised her hands to her face. She said toherself. "It doesn't make sense.., it can't make sens . . .I544Miss Entwhistle was aroused from a delightful dream inwhich she was playing Piquet with Queen Mary, by theringing of the telephone.She tried to ignore it--but it persisted. Sleepily she raisedher head from the pillow and looked at the watch beside herbed. Five minutes to seven--who on earth could be ringingup at that hour ? It must be a wrong number.The irritating ding-ding continued. Miss Entwhistle sighed,snatched up a dressing-gown and marched into the sittingroom."Thisis Kensington 675498," she said with asperity as shepicked up the receiver."This is Mrs. Abernethie speaking. Mrs. Lo Abernethie.Can I speak to Mr. Entwhistle ?""Oh, good morning, Mrs. Abernethie." The "goodmorning" was not cordial. "This is Miss Entwhistle. Mybrother is still asleep I'm afraid. I was asleep myself.""I'm so sorry," Helen was forced to t.he apology." Butit's v,e, ry important that I should speak m your brother atonce."Wouldn't it do later ?""I'm afraid not.""Oh, very well then."Miss Entwhistle was tart.She tapped at her brother's door and went in."Those Abernethies again I" She said bitterly."Eh I The Abernethies ?""Mrs. Leo Abernethie. Ringing up before seven in themorning I Really t""Mrs. Leo, is at } Dear me. How remarkable. Where ismy dressing-gown ? Ah, thank you."Presently he was saying:"Entwhistle speaking. Is that you, Helen ?""Yes. I'm terribly sorry to get you out of bed like this.But you did tell me once to rtng you up at once if I rememberedwhat it was that struck me as having been wrong somehowon the day of the funeral when Cora electrified us all by suggesting that Richard had been murdered.""Ah [ You have remembered ?"Helen said in a puzzled voice: ,"''riseYes, but tt doesnt make se .I55"You must allow me to be the judge of that.Was itso,m, ethin, q you noticed about one of the people ?Yes."Tell me.""It seems absurd." Helen's voice sounded apologetic."But I'm quite sure of it. It came to me when I was lookingat myself in the glass last night. Oh . . ."The little startled half c.ry was succeeded by a sound thatcame oddly through the wres--a dull heavy sound that Mr.Entwhistle couldn't place at all.He said urgently:"Hallohallo--are you there ? Helen, are you there ?...Helen..CHAPTER XXIIT wss sot until nearly an hour later that Mr. Entwhistle,after a great deal of conversation with supervisors and others,found himself at last speaking to Hercule Poirot."Thank heaven!" said Mr. Entwhistle with pardonableexasperation. "The Exchange seems to have had thegreatest difficulty in getting the number.""That is not surprising. The receiver was off the hook."There was a grim quality in Poirot's voice which carriedthrough to the listener.Mr. Entwhistle said sharply:"Has something happened ? '"Yes. Mrs. Leo Abernethie was found by the housemaidabout twenty minutes ago lying by the telephone in the study.She was unconscious. A serious concussion.""Do you mean she was struck on the head ?""I think so. It is just possible that she fell and struck herhead on a marble doorstop, but me I do not think so, and thedoctor, he does not think so either.""She was telephoning to me at the time. I wondered whenWe were cut off so suddenly."So it was to you she was telephoning ? What did she say?""She mentioned to me some time ago that on the occasionwhen Cora Lansquenet suggested her brother had beenmurdered, she herself had a feeling of something being wrong--odd--she did not quite know how to put it--unfortunatelyshe could not remember uhy she had that impression.""And suddenly, she did remember ?"x56"Yes.""And rang you up to tell you ? '"Yes.""Eh bien ?""There's no eh bien about it," said Mr. Entwhistle testily."She started to te me, but was terrupted.' "How much had she said ?" "Nothing pertinent.""You will excuse me, mort ami, but I am the judge of that,no, you. What exactly did she say ?"She reminded me that I had asked her to let me ow atonce if she remembered what it was that had stck herculiar. She said she had rememberedbut that it ' di'tmake sense.'"I asked her if it w something about one of the peoplewho were there that day, and she said, yes, it w. She saidit had come to her when she was lookg the gls ""at was .""She gave no hint twhich of the ople concerned itwas '"I should hary fa to let you ow if she had told me th," said Mr. Entwhistle aciy."I alogise, mon ami. Of cour you wod have toldme."Mr. Entwhistle said:"We sh just have to wait until she rovers consciousnsbefore we know."Poirot said avely:"That may not be for a we long time. Perhaps never.""Is it. bad that ?" Mr. Entwstle's voice shooka little."Yes, it h as bad as that.""Butthat's teble, Poirot.""Yes, it h terrible. And it h why we cnot afford towait. For it shows that we have to deM th someone who iseither completely ruthle or so frightened that it com to thesame thing.""But lk here, Poirot, what about Helen ? I feel woed.she would not be safe. So she is not at Enderby.Already the ambulce has come and is takg her to a nursinghome where she have speci nurs and where one, gfiy or othese, 11 be owed to see her.". Entwhistle sighed."You relieve my mind I She might have been in danger.""She assuredly would have been in danger I ,M.. Entwhistle's voice sounded deeply moved.have a great regard for Helen Abernethie. I alwayhave had. A woman of very exceptionaJ character, She mayhave had certain--what shall I say ?--reticences in her life.""Ah, there were reticences ?""I have always had an idea that such was the case.""Hence the villa in Cyprus. Yes, that explains a gooddeal ""I doa't want you to begin thinking""You cannot stop me thinking. But now, there is a littlecommission that I have for you. One moment."There was a pause, then Poirot's voice spoke again."I had to make sure that nobody was listening. All iswell. Now here is what I want you to do for me. You mustpr,e, pare to make a journey.",,A journey ?" Mr. Entwhistle sounded faintly dismayedOh, I see--you want me to come down to Enderby ?'"Not at all. I am in charge here. No, you will not haveto travel so far. Your journey will not take you very farfrom London. You will travel to Bury St. Edmunds--(Ma.fo/! what names your English towns have l) and there youwill hire a car and drive to Forsdyke House. It is a MentalHome. Ask for Dr. Penrith and inquire of him particularsab,o,u.t a patient who was recently discharged.'What patient ? Anyway, surely"Poirot broke in:*' The name of the patient is Gregory Ban,k,,,. Find out forwhat form of insanity he was being treated."Do you mean that Gregory Banks is insane ?""Sh I Be careful what you say. And now--I have not yetbreakfasted and you, too, I suspect have not breakfasted ?""Not yet. I was too anxious----""Quite so. Then, I pray you, eat your breakfast, reposeyourself. There is a good train to Bury St. Edmunds at twelveo'clock. If I have any more news I will telephone you beforeyou start.""Be careful of yoursdJPoirot," said Mr. Entwhistle withsome concern."Ah that, yes Me, I do not want to be hit on the headwith a marble doorstop. You may be assured that I will takeevery precaution. And now--for the moment--good-bye."Poirot heard the sound of the receiver being replaced atthe other end, then he heard a very faint second click--and58smiled to himself. Somebody had replaced the receiver on thetelephone in the hall.He went out there. There was no one about. He tiptoedto the cupboard at the back of the stairs and looked inside.At that moment Lanscombe came through the service doorcarrying a tray with toast and a silver coffee pot. He lookedslightly surprised to see Poirot emerge from the cupboard."Breakfast is ready in the dining-room, sir," he said.Poirot surveyed him thoughtfully.The old butler looked white and shaken."Courage," said Poirot, clapping him on the shoulder."All will yet be well. Would it be too much trouble to serveme a cup of coffee in my bedroom ?""Certainly, sir. I will send Janet up with it, sir.' 'Lanscombe looked disapprovingly at Hercule Poirot's backas the latter climbed the stairs. Poirot was attired in anexotic silk dressing-gown with a pattern of triangles andsquares."Foreigners I" thought Lanscombe bitterly. "Foreignersin the house I And Mrs. Leo with concussion I I don't knowwhat we're coming to. Nothing's the same since Mr. Richarddied."Hercule Poirot was dressed by the time he received hiscoffee-from Janet. His murmurs of sympathy were wellreceived, since he stressed the shock her discovery must havegiven her."Yes, indeed, sir, what I felt when I opened the door of thestudy and came in with the Hoover and saw Mrs. Leo lyingthere I never shah forget. There she lay--and I made sureshe was dead. She must have been taken faint as she stood atthe phone--and fancy her being up at that time in themorning I I've never known her do such a thing before.""Fancy, indeed " He added casually: "No one else wasup, I suppose ?""As it happens, sir, Mrs. Timothy was up and about. She'sa very early riser always--often goes for a walk before brek-fast.""She is of the generation that rises early," said Poirotnodding his head. "The younger ones, now--4hy do not getup so early ?"o, mcteea, sir, all fast asleep when I brought them theirtea--and very late I was, too, what with the shock andgetting the doctor to come and having to have a cup first tosteady myself."She went off and Poirot reflected on what she had said.I59Maude Aberuethie had been up and about, and the youngergeneration had been in bed--but that, Poirot reflected, meantnothing at all. Anyone could have heard Helen's door openand close, and have followed her down to listen--and wouldafterwards have made, a point of being fa, st asleep in bed."But if I am right, ' thought Poirot. And after all, it isnatural to me to be right--it is a habit I have l--then thereis no need to go into who was here and who was there. First,I must seek a proof where I have deduced the proof may be.And then--I mak,e, my little speech. And I sit back and seewhat happens...As soon as Janet had left the room, Poirot drained hiscoffee cup, put on his overcoat and his hat, left his room,rannimbly down the back staffs and left the house by the sidedoor. He walked briskly the quarter-mile to the post officewhere he demanded a trunk call. Presently he was once morespeaking to Mr. Entwhistle."Yes, it is I yet again I Pay no attention to the commissionwith which I entrusted you. CYtait unt blague/ Someone was listening. Now, mon viex, to the realcommission.You must, as I said, take a train. But not to BurySt. Edmunds. I want you to proceed to the house of Mr.Timgthy Abernethie.""But Timothy and Maude are at Enderby.""Exactly. There is no one in the house but a woman bythe name of Jones who has been persuaded by the offer (tsiderable largssto guard the house whilst they are absent;at I want you to do is to take something out of that house! ' "My dear Poirot I I really can't stoop toburglary I" "It will not seem like burglary. You will say to theexcellent Mrs. Jones who knows you, that you have been askedby Mr. or Mrs., Abernethie to fetch this particular object andtake it to London. She will not suspect anything amiss.""No, no, probably not. But I'don't like it." Mr. Entwhistlesounded most reluctant. "Why can't you go and get whateverit is yourself.""Because, my friend, I should be a stranger of foreignappearance and as such a suspicious character, and Mrs. Joneswould at once raise the difficulties I With you, she will not.""No, no--I see that. But what on earth are Timothy andMaude going to think when th,,ey hear about it ? I haveknown them for forty odd years."And you knew Richard Abernethie for that time also, lAnd you knew Cora Lansquenet when she was a little girl I 'In a martyred voice Mr. Entwhistle asked:x6o,' You're sure this is really necessary, Poirot ?""The old question they asked in the wrtime on the Is .you.r journey really ncessary ? I say t you, it isnosterS.essary.ItPoirot told him."But really, Poirot, I don't see"It is not necessary for you to see. I an doing the [ , ,,"And what do you want me to do with the eemg./amnedthing ?""You will take it to London, to an addr? in EGardens. If you have a pencil, note it down.ParkHaving done so, Mr. Entwhistle said, still in his lkrtyredvoice:"I hope you know what you are doing, ,Pokot ?"He sounded Very doubtulmbut Poirot s replydoubtful at all.as not"Of course I know what I am doing. We are nea&ing theend."Mr. Entwhistle sighed:"If we could only guess what Helen was going to t:[l1 me.""No need to guess. I know.""You know ? But my dear Poirot""Explanations must wait. But let me assure yotaI know what Helen A bernethie saw trhn she looked if this.mirror."in herBreakfast had been an uneasy meal. Neither Rotnor Timothy had appeared, but the others were there h'amundtalked in rather subdued tones and eaten a little leX, nd had's thanthey normally would have done.George was the first one to recover his spirits.perament was mercurial and optimistic,tern''I expect Aunt Helen will be all right," he s,aid. "Ix always like to pull a long face. After all, what sconc/:JocrorsOften clears up completely in a couple of days."lssion ?"A woman I knew had concussion during the waMiss Gilchrist conversationally. "A brick or somet}id' saidher as she was walking down Tottenham Court Roading hitduring fly bomb time--and she never felt anything qt wasJus. t went on with what she was doingand collaps!a,t, all.tram to Liverpool twelve hours later. And would you .ct m ait, she had no recollection at all of going to the statlbelievebn and...z6zIFcatching the train or anything. She just couldn't understandit when she woke up in hospital. She was there for nearlythree weeks.""What I can't make out," said Susan, "is what Helen wasdoing telephoning at that unearthly hour, and who she wastelephoning to ?""Felt ill," said Mande with decision." Probably woke upfeeling queer and came down to ring up the doctor. Thenhad a giddy fit and fell. That's the only thing that makessense.""Bad luck hitting her head on that doorstop," said Michael. "If she'd just pitched over on to that thick pilecarpet she'dhave been all right."The door opened and Rosamund ,crime in, frow,ning."I can't find those wax flowers, she said. ' I mean th:eones that were standing on the malachite table the day ofUncle Richard's funeral." She looked accusingly at Susan. "You haven't taken them ?""Of course I haven't 1 Really, Rosamund, you're not still thinking about malachite tables with poor oldHelen cartedoff,,t hoslital with concussion, ?"don t see why I shouldn t think about them. If you'vegot concussion you don't know what's happening and it doesn'tmatter to you. We can't do anything for Aunt Helen, andMichael and I have got to get back to London by tomorrowlunch-time because we're seeing Jackie Lygo about lSehingdates for The Baronet's Progr.e, ss. So I'd like to fix updefinitely about the table. But I d like to have a look at thosewax flowers again. There's a kind of Chinese vase on thetable now--nice--but not nearly so period. I do wonderwhere they are--perhaps Lanscombe knows."Lanscombe had just looked in to see if they had finishedbreakfast."We're all through, Lanscombe," said George getting up."What's happened to our foreign friend ?""He is having his coffee and toast served upstairs, sir." "Petit dejeunr for N.A.R.C,O."'"Lanscombe, do you know where those wax flowers arethat used to be on that green table in the drawing-room ?asked Rosamund."I understand Mrs. Leo had an accident with them, re'am.She was going to have a new glass shade made, but I don'tthink she has seen about it yet.""Then where is the thing ?""It would probably be in the cupboard behind the staircase,x6are'am. That is where things are usually placed when awaiting repair. Shall I ascertain for you ?""I'll go and look myself. Come with me, Michael sweetie.It's dark there, and I'm not going in any ,,dark corners bymyself after what happened to Aunt Helen.Everybody showed a sharp reaction. Maude demanded inher deep vmce:"What do you mean, Rosamund ?""Well, she was coshed by someone, wasn't she ?",G, regory Banks said sharply:' She was taken suddenly faint and fell."Rosamund laughed."Did she tell you so ? Don't be silly, Grey, of course she was coshed."George said sharply:"You shouldn't say things like that, Rosamund." "Nonsense," said Rosamund. "She must have been. Imean, it all adds up. A detective in the house looking forclues, and Uncle Richard poisoned, and Aunt Cora killedwith a hatchet, and Miss Gilchrist given poisoned weddingcake, and now Aunt Helen struck down with a blunt instrument.You'll see, it will go on like that. One after anotherof us will be killed and the one that's left will be It--themurderer, I mean. But it's not going to be me--who'skilled, I mean.""And why should anyone want to kill you, beautiful Rosa-round?" asked George lightly.Rosamund opened her eyes very wide."Oh," she said. "Because I know too much, of course.""What do you know ?" Maude Abernethie and GregoryBanks spoke almost in unison.Rosamund gave her vacant and angelic smile."Wouldn't you all like to know ?" she said agreeably."Come on, Michael."CHAPTER XXIIAT ELEVEN O'CLOCK, Hercule Poirot called an informalmeeting in the library. Everyone was there and Poirot lookedthoughtfully ro,u, nd the se,,m,i-circle of faces."Last night, he said, Mrs. Shane announced to you thatI was a private detective. For myself, I hoped to retain my ---camouflage, shall we say ?ma little longer.But no matter 1To-day--or at most the day after--I would have told you thetruth. Please listen carefully now to what I have to say."I am in my own line a celebrated person--I may saymost celebrated person. My gifts, in fact, are unequalled [George Crossfield grinned and said:"That's the stuff, M. Pont--no, it's M. Poirot, isn't itFunny, isn't it, that I've never even heard of you ?""It is not funny," said Poirot severely. "It is lamentableAlas, there is no proper education nowadays. Apparently onelearns nothing but economics--and how to set IntelligenceTests I But to continue. I have been a friend for many yearsof Mr. Entwhistle's""So he's the nigger in the wood pile ""If you like to put it that way, Mr. Crossfield. Mr. Ent-whistlewas greatly upset by the death of his old friend,Mr. Richard Abernethie. He was particularly perturbed bysome words spoken on the day of the funeral by Mr. Abernethie'ssister, Mrs. Lansquenet. Words spoken in this veryroom.""Very silly--and just like Cora," said Maude. "Mr.Entwhistle should have had more sense than to pay attentionto them I"Poirot went on:"Mr. Entwhistle was even more perturbed after the--thecoincidence, shall I say ?--of Mrs. Lansquenet's death. Hewanted one thing only--to be assured that that death zas a coincidence. In other words he wanted to feelassured thatRichard Abernethie had died a natural death. To that endhe commissioned me to make the necessary investigations."There was a pause."I have made them..."Again there was a pause. No one spoke.Poirot threw back his head."Eh bien, you will all be delighted to hear that as a resultof my investigations there is absolutely no reason to bdivethat Mr. A bcrnethie died anything but a natral death. There isno reason at all to believe that he was murdered!" Hesmiled. He threw out his hands in a triumphant gesture. "That is good news, is it not ?"It hardly seemed to be, by the way they took it. Theystared at him and in all but the eyes of one person there stillseemed to be doubt and suspicion.The exception was Timothy Abernethie, who was noddinghis head in violent agreement."Of course Richard wasn't murdered," he said angrily.I64hv anybody ever even tho--e ght ofust Cora up to h r thenderstan8 J. 1, that"Nevc. ould. ullnu all a scare. Her dea. 1funny. Trutho.d the sense to c?me to, tl. rightwas alway.? a t),tt.menr,al,rlk me, I call it ctamnea cteeOofes. I mglatt you ye t U to comenasa '.. yopry,oningoncluson, hough ifyo,iks he's aoin to cha- g andc.commi,igc theEntwhmtle to go, - . tell you he wont ge, t -aw.a. with poking a.o. oUt. ur PA , xci;0, unca!led for I Who ,s, Enthistleestate with .yo,r - ' , -.amily s satisfiedit I D.arp. nea,?ee,ana [jncle Timothy," said Rosh, mundto set himsenuprx tv "But thefamily wasri')',o, heetlin brows of displ,,.,, ' that i......Hey.--whats. ,/ndwhat about AuntHelhn thisTimottxy peerea at ncrt "Weweren'tsatisfied.morning ?"Maude said sharply:finn you're liableto get a troke"Helen's just the age, 'That's all t,,here is to that, Cd. Anothercomcdeneh, you"I see, said Rosam0tlllnK .,,,ant, coinclctences rAren t t .:4 elen feltill, came"Coincidences,"said ,X,' n andB'gasked him ..-"Susansaid sharply:'- ' .,.aton', Who did she rin- u"tosamuna, a snaae orv.,,,... , . ,,slf. at I dare say Ican find ,,,,, sheIdontknow, sampassing over herrace.added hopefully.2gintheVictoriansurnmet,,HerculePoirotwassittiI(omhispocketandlaiditaouse.ntheHedrewhislargewatch' --- .-wasleavingbythetwelvetable nfruntofhim.'Halfan clockHehadannouncedthati2 n scogi etohim. h.uaftrain.Therewasstillha) 'rpsomeonetomakeuptheftmorethanoneperson...'The summer-house was clearly visible from most of thewindows of the house. Surely, soon, someone would come ?If not, his knowledge of human nature was deficient, andhis main premises incorrect.He waited--and above his head a spider in its web waitedfor a fly.It was Miss Gilchrist who came first. She was flusteredan,d, upset and rather incohere,n,t.Oh, Mr. Pontarlier--I can t remember your other name,"she said. "I had to come and speak to you although I don't like doing it--but really I feel I ought to. Imean, after whathappened to poor Mrs. Leo this morning--and I think myselfMrs. Shane was quits right--and not coincidence, and certainlynot a stroke--as Mrs. Timothy suggested, because my ownfather had a stroke and it was quite a different appearance,and anyway the doctor said concussion quite clearly I"She paused, took breath and looked at Poirot with appealingeyes."Yes," said Poirot gently and encouragingly. "You wantto tell me something ?"As I say, I don't like doing it--because she's been sokind. She found me the position with Mrs. ,Timothy andeverything. She's been really very kind. That s why I feelso ungrateful. And even gave me Mrs. Lansquenet's musquash jacket which is really most handsome andfits beautifullybecause it never matters if fur is a little on the large side.And when I wanted to return her the amethyst brooch she wouldn't hsar of it "" You are referring,"said Poirot gently, "to Mrs. Banks ?""Yes, you see ..." Miss Gilchrist looked down, twistingher fingers unhappily. She looked up and said with a suddensee,"You mean you happened to overhear a conversation ""No." Miss Gilchrist shook her head with an air of heroicdetermination. "I'd rher speak the truth. And it's not sobad telling you because you're not English."Hercule Poirot understood her without taking offence. "You mean that to a foreigner it is natural thatpeopleshould listen at doors and open letters, or read letters thatare left about ?""Oh, I'd never open anybody else's letters," said MissGflchrist in a shocked tone. "Not that. But I did listen thatday--the day that Mr. Richard Abernethie came down to seehis sister. I was curious, you know, about his turning upx66snddenl after .all those ,years., And I did wonder why--and--u see wlen yon haven t much life of youi own or very,,to get interested--when you reand--Ymany friends, you do tendhying with anybody, I .mea.n. ,"Most natural," saia t'olror."Yes, I do think it was natural... Though not, of course,at all right. But I did it I And I heard what he said I""You heard what lr. Abernethie said to Mrs. Lansquenet?""Yes. He said something like--' It's no good talking toTimothy lie pooh-poohs everything. Simply won't listen.But I ought I'd like to get it off my chest to you, Cora.We three are the only. ones left,. And though you we alwaysliked to play the simpleton you we got a lot of co,m, mon sense.So what wou!d you do about it, if yon were me ?"I couldn t quite hear what Mrs. Lansquenet said, butI caught the word police--,a, nd then Mr. Abernet,h, ie burst outouite loud, and said,' 1 can t do that. Not when it s a question(;! ray own niece.' And then I had to run in the kitchen forsomething b,oiling over and when I got back Mr. AbernethieWaS saying, Even if I die an unnatural death I don't wantthe police called in, if it can possibly be avoided. You under...... --t -ou my dear girl But don't worry. Nowthat I know, I shall take all possible precantons. And hea new will, and that she, Cora,wouldbe quite all right. Aha then ne sola aoou her havingbeen happy with her husband and how perhaps he'd madea mistake over that in the past."Miss Gilchrist stopped.Pozrotsad: Ise see..."But I never wanted to say--to tell I didn't thinkMrs. Lansquenet would have wanted me to... But nowafter Mrs. Leo being attacked this morning--and then yousaying so calmly it was coincidence. But, oh, M. Pontarlier,t wash t comctdence IPoirot smiled. He said:"No, it wasn't coincidence Thankyou, Miss Gilchrist,forcoming to me. It was very necessary that you should."Hehad a little difficulty in getting rid of Miss Gilchrist, andit was urgent that he should, for he hoped for further confidences.His instinct was right. Miss Gilchrist had hardly.gonebefore Gregory Banks, striding across the lawn, came nnpetuously into the summer-house. His face was pale and therewere beads of perspiration on his forehead. His eyes werecuriously excited."At last I "he said. "I thought that stupid woman wouldnever go. You' re all wrong in what you said this morning.You're wrong about everything. Richard Abernethie waskilled. I killed him."Hercule Poirot let his eyes move up and down over theexcited young man. He showed no surprise."So you killed him, did you ? How ?"Gregory Banks smiled."It wasn't difficult for ms. You can surely realise that.There were fifteen or twenty different drugs I could lay myhands on that would do it. The method of administrationtook rather more thinking out, but I hit on a very,ingeniousidea in the end. The beauty of it was that I didn t need tobe anywhere near at the time.""Clever," said Poirot."Yes." Grego,r.y Banks cast his eyes down mod,tly. Heseemed pleased. ' Yes--I do think it was ingenious.Poirot asked with interest:"Why did you kill him ? For the money that would cometo your wife ?""No. No, of course not." Greg was suddenly xcitediyindignant. "I'm not a money grubber.I didn t marrySusan for her money I""Didn't you, Mr. Banks ?""That's what h thought," Greg said with sudden venom. "Richard Abernethie I He liked Susan, headmired her, hewas proud of her as an example of Abernethie blood But hethought she'd married beneath her--he thought I was nogood--he despised me I I dare say I hadn't the right accentNI didn't wear my clothes the right way. He was a snob---afilthy snob I""I don't think so," said Poirot mildly. "From all I haveheard, Richard Abernethie. was no snob.""He was. He was." The young man spoke with somethingapproaching hysteria. "He thought nothing of me. Hesneered at m,e,?lways very polite but underneath I coulds that he didn t like me I""Possibly.""People can't treat me like that and get away with it!They've tried it before l A woman who used to come andx68have her medicines moAe up. She was rude to me. Do you know what I did ?""Yes," said Poirot.Gregory looked startled. "So you know that ?" "Yes.""She near! died." He spoke in a satisfied mnner.. "That. shows you I m not the sort of person to betrifled wlthlRichard Abernethie despised me--and what happened tohim ? He died.""A most successful murder," said Poirot with grave congratulation.He added: "But why come and give yourself away--tome?""Bec,a, use you said you were through with it all I Yo, u saidhe hadn t been murdered. I had to show you that you re, notas clever as you think You are--and besides--beside "Yes," said Poirot. "And besides ?"Greg collapsed suddenly on to the bench. His face changed.It took on a sudden ecstatic quality."It was wrong--wicked... I must be punished...must go back there--to the place if punishment .. to atoneYes, to atone 1 Repentance Retribution i"''/tis face was alight now with a kind of glowing ecstasy.Poirot studied him for a moment or two curiously.Then he asked:"How badly do you want to get away from your wife ?Gregory's face changed."Susan ? Susan is wonderful--wonderful I""Yes. Susan is wonderful. That is a grave burden. Susanloves you devotedly. That is a burden, too ?"Gregory sat looking in front of him. Then he said, ratherin the manner of a sulky child:"Why couldn't she let me alone ?"He sprang up."She's coming now--across the lawn. I'll go now. Butyou'll tell her what I told you ? Tell her I've gone to thepolice station. To confess.'Susan came in breathlessly."Where's Greg ? He was here I I saw him." "Yes." Poirot paused a moment--before saying:"Hecame to tell me that it was he who poisoned Richard Abernethie...."What absolute nosns You didn't believe him, Ihope ?""Why should I not believe him ?""He wasn't even near this place when Uncle Richard died I""Perhaps not. Where was he when Cora Lansquenet died ?""In London. We both were."Hercule Poirot shook his head."No, no, that will not do. You, for instance, took outyour car that day and were away all the afternoon. I thinkI know where you went. You went to Lytchett St. Mary." "I did no such thing I"Poirot smiled."When I met you here, Madame, it was not, as I told you,the first time I had seen you. After the inquest on Mrs. i.ansquenetyou were in the garage of the King's Arms. You talkthere to a mechanic and close by you is a car containing anelderly foreign gentleman. You did not notice him, but henoticed you.""I don't see what you mean. That was the day of theinquest.""Ah, but remember what that mechanic said to you I Heasked you if you were a relative of the victim, and you saidyou were her niece.""He was just being a ghoul. They're all ghouls.""And his next words were, ' Ah, wondered where I'd seenyou before.' Where did he see you before, Madame ? Itmust have been in Lytchett St. Mary, since in his mind hisseeing you before was accounted for by your being Mrs.Lansquenet's niece. Had he seen you near her cottage ?And when ? It was a matter, was it not, that demandsinquiry. And the result of the inquiry is, that you werethere---in Lytchett St. Mary---on the afternoon Cora Lansquenetdied. You parked your car in the same quarry whereyou left it the morning of the inquest. The car was seen andthe number was noted. By this time Inspector Morton knowswhose car it was."Susan stared at him. Her breath came rather fast, but sheshowed no signs of discomposure.u re talking nonsense, M. Porot. And you're makingme forget what I came here to say--I wanted to try and findyou alone--""To confess to me that it was you and not your husbandwho committed the murder ?"XTO"No, of course not. What kind of a fool do you think I am ?And I've already told you that Gregory never left Londonthat day.""A fact which you cannot possibly know since Irou wereaway yourself. Why did you go down to Lytchett St. Mary,Mrs. Banks ?"Susan drew a deep breath."All right, if you must have it 1 What Cora said at thefuneral worried me. I kept on thinking about it. Finally Idecided to run down in the car and see her, and ask her whathad put the idea into her head. Greg thought it a silly idea,so I didn't even tell him where I was going. I got there aboutthree o'clock, knocked and rang, but there was no answer, soI thought she must be out or gone away. That's all there is toit. I didn't go round to the back of the cottage. If I had,I might have seen the broken window. I just went back toLondon without the faintest idea there was anything wrong."Poirot's face was non-committal. He said:"Why does your husband accuse himself of the crime ?""Because he's "a word trembled on Susan's tongueand was rejected. Poirot seized on it."You were going to say ' because he is batty' speaking injest--but the jest was too near the truth, was it not ?""Greg's all right. He is. He is.""I know something of his history," said Poirot. "He wasfor some months in Forsdyke House Mental Home before youmet him.""He was never certified. He was a voluntary patient.""That is true. He is not, I agree, to be classed as insane.But he is, very definitely, unbalanced. He has a punishmentcomplex has had it, I suspect, since infancy."Susan spoke quickly and eagerly:"You don't understand, M. Poirot. Greg has never had achance. That's why I wanted Uncle Richard's money so badly.Uncle Richard was so matter-of-fact. He couldn't understand.I knew Greg had got to set up for himself. He had got to feelhe was someone--not just a chemist's assistant, being pushedaround. Everything will be different now. He will have hisown laboratory. He can work out his own formulas.""Yes, yes--you will give him the earth--because you lovehim. Love him too much for safety or for happiness. Butyou cannot give to people what they are incapable of receiving.At the end of it all, he will still be something that he does notwant to be .... ""What's that ?""Susan's husbal.""How cruel you ar I And what nonsense "Where Gregory Banks is concerned ou az ,Yunscrupmous.Youwanted your uncle s money--not for yyourhusband. How butly did you want it ? ,urselr--t)ut xorAngrily, Susan turnedanddashed away.5'I thought," said Michael Shane lightly,,, that I'd just comealong and say goodbye."He smiled, andhissmilehad a singularly,intoxicatingquality.Poirot was awareof the man's vital charmHe studiedMichaelShane for somemomh ....nts m silenceHe felt as thouh heknew this man least well %f all the housparty, for Michael Shaneonly showed theside ........he wanted toshow.mmmsenmat"Your wife," saidPoirot conversationally,,unusual woman."veryMichael raised his eyebrowsDo you thnk so.She s alovely, I agreh.so I've found, conspicuous for brains" But not, or"She will never try to betoo clever," Poirot .....she knows whatshe wants Hesghed So....Ah. Mchael s smile broke out agam. ,,e. ,. .,the malachitetable ?"minting"Perhaps." Poirot paused and added: "A nd ofwhat was"The wax flowers, you mean ?""The waxflowers."Michael frowned.,,d t always qmte understand you, M,ever, the smile was switched on again, "I'm Poirot. How,more thankfulthan I can say that we re all outofthe wood. It,s un-leasantto say the least of it, to go around with the P. ..,,suspicionsomehow oromer one oI us muraerea poor from u, . , . ,,,, qcle lXlcaara.Thatis how he seemed to you when yoPoirot inquired."Poor old Uncle Richard ? metnun t"Of course he was very well preservedand 11that"Andinfullpossessionofhisfaculties"Ohyes.""And,infact,quite shrewd?'"I daresay.""A shrewd judge of character."The smile remained unaltered."You can't expect me to agree with that, M. Poirot. Hedidn't approve of ms.""He thought you, perhaps, the unfaithful type ?" Poirotsuggested.Michael laughed."What an old-fashioned idea I""But it is true, isn't it ?""Now I wonder what you mean by that ?"Poirot placed the tips of his fingers together."There have been inquiries made, you know," he murmured. "By you ?""Not only by me."Michael Shane gave him a quick searching glance. Hisreactions, Poirot noted, were quick. Michael Shane was nofool."You mean--the police are interested ?""They have never been quite satisfied, you know, toregard the murder of Cora Lansquenet as a casual crime." "And they've been making inquiries about me?"Poirot said primly:"They are interested in the movements of Mrs. Lansquenet'srelations on the day that she was killed.""That's extremely awkward." Michael spoke with a charmingconfidential rueful air."Is it, Mr. Shane ?""More so than you can imagine I I told Rosamund, yousee, that I was lunching with a certain Oscar Lewis on thatday.""When, in actual fact, you were not ?""No. Actually I motored down to see a woman calledSorrel Dainton--quite a well-known actress. I was with herin her last show. Rather awkward, you see for though it'squite satisfactory as far as the police are concerned, it won'tgo down very well with Rosamund.""Ah I" Poirot looked discreet. "There has been a littletrouble over this friendship of yours ?""Yes... In fact--Rosamund made me promise I wouldn'tsee her any more.""Yes, I can see that may be awkward... Entre nos, you had an affair with the lady ?""Oh, just one of those things IIt's not as though I caredfor the woman at all.""But she cares for you ?"I73"Well, she's been rather tiresome... Women do cling so.However, as you say, the police at any rate will be satisfied." "You think so ? '"Well, I could hardly be taking a hatchet to Cora if I wasdallying,,with Sorrel miles and miles away. She's got a cottagein Kent."I see--I seeand this Miss Dainton, she will testify foryou ?""She won't like it--but as it's murder, I suppose she'llhave to do it.""She will do it, perhaps, even if you were not dally/ng withher.""What do you mean ?" Michael looked suddenly blackas thunder."The lady is fond of you. When they are fond, women willswear to what is true--and also to what is untrue.""Do you mean to say that you don't believe me ?""It does not matter if I believe you or not. It is not 1you have to satisfy." "Who then ?"Poirot smiled."Inspector Morton--who has just come out on the terracethrough the side door."Michael Shane wheeled round sharply.CHAPTER XXIII"I tg^RD OV were here, M. Poirot," said Inspector Morton.The two men were pacing the terrace together."I came over with Superintendent Parwell from Matchfield.Dr. Larraby rang him up about Mrs. Leo Abernethie and he'scome over here to make a few inquiries. The doctor wasn'tsatisfied.""And you, my friend," inquired Poirot, "where do youcome in ? You are a long way from your native Berkshire.""I wanted to ask a few questions---and the people I wantedto ask them of seemed very conveniently assembled here."He paused before adding, "Your doing ?""Yes, my doing.""And as a result Mrs. Leo Abernethie gets knocked out." "You must not blame me for that. If she hadcome tome... But she did not. Instead she rang up her lawyer inLondon."x74mil I"And was in process of spilling the beans to him when--WonkI""When--as you say--Wonk I '"And what had she managed to tell him ?""Very little. She had only got as far as telling him thatshe was looking at herself in the glass.""Ah! well," said Inspector Morton philosophically."Women will do it." He looked sharply at Poirot. "Thatsuggests something to y, ou ?""Yes, I think I kndw what it was she was going to tellhim.""Wonderful guesser, aren't you ? You always were.Well, what was it ?""Excuse me, are you inquiring into the death of RichardAbernethie ?""Officially, no. Actually, of course, if it has a bearing onthe murder of Mrs. Lansquenet ""It has a bearing on that, yes. But I will ask you, myfriend, to give me a few more hours. I shall know by then iiwhat I have imagined--imagined only, you comprehend--iscorrect. If it is. ""Well, if it is ?""Then I may be able to place in your hands a piece ofconcrete evidence.""We could certainly do with it," said Insl,,ctor Mortonwith feeling. He looked askance at Poirot. What haveyou been holding back ?""Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Since the piece of evidenceI have imagined may not in fact exist. I have only deducedits existence from various scraps of conversation. I may,"said Poirot in a completely unconvinced tone, "be wrong."Morton smiled."But that doesn't often happen to you ?""No. Though I will admit--yes, I am forced to admit--thatit has happened to me.""I must say I'm glad to hear it I To be always right mustbe sometimes monotonous.""I do not find it so," Poirot assured him.Inspector Morton laughed."And you're asking me to hold of[ with my questioning ?""No, no, not at all. Proceed as you had planned to do.I suppose you were not actually contemplating an arrest ?"Morton shook his head."Much too flimsy for that. We'd have to get a decisionfrom the Public Prosecutor first--and we're a long way fromx75that. No, just statements from certain parties of their movementson the day in question--in one case with a caution, perhaps.""I see. Mrs. Banks ?""Smart, aren't you ? Yes. She was there that day. Her car was parked in that quarry.""She was not seen actually driving the car ?""No."The Inspector added, "It's bad, you know, that she'snever said a word about being down there that day. She'sgot to explain that satisfactorily.""She is quite skilful at expla'nations," said Poirot dryly. "Yes. Clever young lady. Perhaps a thought tooclever.""It is never wise to be too clever. That is how murderersget caught. Has anything more come up about George Crossfield ?""Nothing definite. He's a very ordinary type. There are a lot of young men like him going about thecountry in trainsand buses or on bicycles. People find it hard to rememberwhen a week or so has gone by if it was Wednesday or Thursdaywhen they were at a certain place or noticed a certainperson."He paused and went on: "We've had one piece of rathercurious information--from the Motler Superior of some convent or other. Two of her nuns had been outcollectingfrom door to door. It seems that they went to Mrs. Lansquenet'scottage on the day before she was murdered, but couldn't make anyone hear when they knocked andrang.That's natural enough--she was up North at the Abernethiefuneral and Gilchrist had been given the day off and hadgone on an excursion to Bournemouth. The point is thatthey say there was someone in the cottage. They say they heardsighs and groans. I've queried whether it wasn't a day laterbut the Mother Superior is quite definite that that couldn'tbe so. It's all entered up in some book. Was there someonesearching for something in the cottage that day, who seizedthe opportunity of both the women being away ? And didthat somebody not find what he or she was looking for andcome back the next day ? I don't set much store on the sighsand still less on the groans. Even nuns are suggestible anda cottage where murder has occurred positively asks forgroans. The point is, was there someone in the cottage whoshouldn't have been there ? And if so, who was it ? All theAbernethie crowd were at the funeral."Poirot asked a seemingly irrelevant question:x76"These nuns who were collecting in that district, did they return at all at a later date to try again ?""As a matter of fact they did come again--about a week later. Actually on the day of the inquest, Ibelieve.""That fits," said Hercule Poirot. "That fits very well."Inspector Morton looked at him. "Why this interest in nuns ?""They have been forced on my attention whether I willor no. It will not have escaped your attention, Inspector,that the visit of the nuns was the same day that poisonedwedding cake found its way into that cottage.""You don't think Surely that's a ridiculous idea ?" "My ideas are never ridiculous," said Hercule Poirotseverely. "And now, mon cher, I must leave you to yourquestions and to the inquiries into the attack on Mrs. Abernethie.I myself must go in search of the late Richard Abernethie'sniece.""Now be careful what you go saying to Mrs. Banks." ,"I do not mean Mrs. Banks. I mean Richard Abernethie sother niece."Poirot found Rosamund sitting on a bench overlooking alittle stream that cascaded down in a waterfall and thenflowed through rhododendron thickets. She was staring intothe water."I do not, I trust, disturb an Ophelia," said Poirot as hetook his seat beside her. "You are, perhaps, studying the rle ?""I've never played in Shakespeare," said Rosamund. "Except once in Rep. I was Jessica in TheMerchant. A lousy part.""Yet not without pathos. ' I am never merry when I hearsweet music.' What a load she carried, poor Jessica, thedaughter of the hated and despised Jew. What doubts ofherself she must have had when she brought with her herfather's ducats when she ran away to her lover. Jessica withgold was one thing--Jessica without gold might have beenanother."Rosamund turned her head to look at him."I thoughtyou'd gone," she said with a tou,ch of reproach.She glanced down at her wrist-watch. "It s past twelveo'clock."x77"I have missed my train," said Poirot."You think I missed it for a reason ?""I suppose so. You're rather precise, aren't you ? Ifm wanted to catch a train, I should think you'd catch"Your judgment is admirable. Do you know, Madame,I have been sitting in the little summer-house hoping thatyou would, perhaps, pay me a visit there ?"Rosamund stared at him."Why should I ? You more or less said good-bye to us allin the library.""Quite so. And there was nothing--you wanted to say to"No." Rosamund shook her head. "I had a lot I wantedto think about. Important things.""i see.""I don't often do much thinking," said Rosamund. "Itseems a waste of time. But this is important. I think oneought to plan one's life just as one wants it to be.""And that is what you are doing ?""Well, yes... I was trying to make a decision aboutsometking.""About your husband ?""In a way."Poirot waited a moment, then he said:"Inspector Morton has just arrived here." He anticipatedRosamund's question by going on: "He is the police officerin charge of the inquiries about Mrs. Lansquenet's death. Hehas come here to get statements from you all about what youwere doing on the day she was murdered.""I see. Alibis," said Rosamund cheerfully.Her be&utiful face relaxed into an impish glee."That WilI be hell for Michael," she said. "He thinks Idon't really know he went off to be with that woman thatr"How did you know ?"It was obvious from the way he said he was going to lunchwith Oscar. So frightfully casually, you know, and his nosetwitching just a tiny bit like it always does when he tellslies.""How devoutly thankful I am I am not married to you,Madame I""And then, of course, I made sure by ringing up Oscar,"continued Rosamund. "Men always tell such silly Ues.""He is not, I fear, a very faithful husband ?" Poirothazarded.Rosamund, however, did not reject the statement."But you do not mind ?""Well, it's rather fun in a way," said Rosamund. "I mean,having a husband that all the other women want to snatchaway from you. I should hate to be married to a man thatnobody wanted--like poor Susan. Really Greg is so completelywet I"Poirot was studying her."And suppose someone did succeed--in snatching yourhusband away fr, o,m you ?""The won't, ' said Rosamund. "Not now," she added. "You mean "Notnow that there's Uncle Richard's money. Michaelfalls for these creatures in a way--that Sorrel Dainton womannearly got her hooks into him--wanted him for keeps--butwith Michael the show will always come first. He can launchout now in a big way--put his own shows on. Do some productionas well as acting. He's ambitious, you know, and hereally is good. Not like me, I adore acting---but I'm ham,though I look nice. No, I'm not worried about Michael anymore. Because it's my money, you see."Her eyes met Poirot's calmly. He thought how strange itwas that both Richard Abernethie's nieces should have fallendeeply in love with men who were incapable of returning thatlove. And yet Rosamund was unusually beautiful and Susanwas attractive and full of sex appeal. Susan needed and clungto the illusion that Gregory loved her. Rosamund, clearsighted,had no illusions at all, but knew what she wanted."The point is," said Rosamund, "that I've got to make abig decision--about the future. Michael doesn't know yet."Her face curved into a smile. "He found out that I wasn'tshopping that day and he's madly suspicious about Regent'sPark.""What is this about Regent's Park ?" Poirot lookedpuzzled."I went there, you see, after Harley Street. Just to walkabout and think. Naturally Michael thinks that if I wentthere at all, I went to meet some man t"Rosamund smiled beatifically and added:"He didn't like that at all I""But why should you not go to Regent's Park ? askedPoirot."Just to walk there, you mean ?""Yes. Have you never done it before ?""Never. Why should I ? What is there to go to Regent'sPark for ?"Poirot looked at her and said:"For you--nothing."He added:"I think, Madame, that you must cede the green malachitetable to your cousin Susan."Rosamund's eyes opened very wide."Why should I ? I want it.""I know. I know. But you--you will keep your husband.And the poor Susan, she will lose hers.""Lose him ? Do you mean Greg's going off with someone ?I wouldn't have believed it of him. He looks so wet.""Infidelity is not the only way of losing a husband,Madame.""You don't mean ?" Rosamund stared at him. "You're not thinking that Greg poisoned Uncle Richardandkilled Aunt Cora and conked Aunt Helen on the head ?That's ridiculous. Even I know better than that.""Who did, taken ?""George, of course. George is a wrong un, you know, he'smixed up in some sort of currency swindle--I heard about itfrom some friends of mine who were in Monte. I expectUncle Richard got to know about it and was just going to cuthim out of his will."Rosamund added complacently:"I've always known it was George."CHAPTER XXITHE TELEGRAM came about six o'clock that evening.As specially requested it was delivered by hand, not telephoned,and Hercule Poirot, who had been hovering for some time in the neighbourhood of the front door, wasat hand toreceive it from Lanscombe as the latter took it from thetelegraph boy.He tore it open with somewhat less than his usual precision.It consisted of three words and a signature.Poirot gave vent to an enormous sigh of relief.Then he took a pound note from his pocket and handed itto the dumbfounded boy.x8o"There are moments," he said to Lanscombe, "wheneconomy should be abandoned.""Very possibly, sir," said Lanscombe politely."Where is Inspector Morton ?" asked Poirot."One of the police gentlemen," Lanscombe spoke withdistasteand indicated subtly that such things as names forpolice officers were impossible to remember--" has left. Theother is, I believe, in the study.""Splendid," said Poirot. "I join him immediately."He once more clapped Lanscombe on the shoulder and said:"Courage, we are on the point of arriving I"Lanscombe looked slightly bewildered since departures, andnot arrivals, had been in his mind.He said:"You do not, then, propose to leave by the nine-thirtytrain after all, sir ?""Do not lose hope," Poirot told him.Poirot moved away, then wheeling round, he asked:"I wonder, can you remember what were the first wordsMrs. Lansquenet said to you when she arrived here on theday of your master's funeral ?""I remember very well, sir," said Lanscombe, his facelighting up. "Miss Cora--I beg pardon, Mrs. La,,nsquenet--I always think of her as Miss Cora, somehow"Very naturally.""She said to me: ' Hallo, Lanscombe. It's a long timesince you used to bring us out meringues to the huts.' All thechildren used to have a hut of their own--down by the fencein the Park. In summer, when there was going to be a dinnerparty, I used to take the young ladies and gentlemen--theyounger ones, you understand, sir--some meringues.MissCora, sir, was always very fond of her food."Poirot nodded."Yes," he said, "that was as I thought. Yes, it was verytypical, that."He went into the study to find Inspector Morton and withouta word handed him the telegram.Morton ,read it blankly."I don t understand a word of this.""The time has come to tell you all."Inspector Morton grinned."You sound like a young lady in a Victorian melodrama.But it's about time you came across with something. I can'thold out on this set-up much longer. That Bxnks fellow isstill insisting that he poisoned Richard Abernethie and boastingI8Ithat we can't find out how. What beats me is why there'salways somebody who comes forward when there's a murderand yells out that they did it I What do they think there isin it for them ? I've never been able to fathom that.""In this case, probably shelter from the difficulties ofbeing responsible for oneself--in other words---ForsdykeSanatorium.""More likely to be Broadmoor.""That might be equally satisfactory.""Did he do it, Poirot ? The Gilchrist woman came out withthe story she'd already told you and it would fit with whatRichard Abernethie said about his niece. If her husband didit, it would involve her. Somehow, you know, I can't visualisethat girl committing a lot of crimes. But there's nothing shewouldn't do to try and cover him.""I will tell you all- ""Yes, yes, tell me all I And for the Lord's sake hurry upand do it I"This time it was in the big drawing-room that HerculePoirot assembled his audience.There was amusement rather than tension in the faces thatwere turned towards him. Menace had materialised in theshape of Inspector Morton and Superintendent Parwell. Withthe police in charge, questioning, asking for statements,Hercule Poirot, private detective, lad receded into somethingclosely resembling a joke.Timothy was not far from voicing the general feeling whenhe remarked in an audible sotto vocto his wife:"Damned little mountebank I Entwhistle must be gaga I --that's all I can say."It looked as though Hercule Poirot would have to work hardto make his proper effect.He began in a slightly pompous manner."For the second time, I announce my departure l Thismorning I announced it for the twelve o'clock train. Thisevening I announce it for the nine-thirty--immediately, thatis, after dinner. I go because there is nothing more here forme to do.""Could have told him that all along." Timothy's commentarywas still in evidence. "Never was anything for himto do. The cheek of these fallows I"I8"I came here originally to solve a riddle. The riddle issolved. Let me, first, go over the various points which werebrought to my attention by the excellent Mr. Entwhistle."First, Mr. Richard Abernethie dies suddenly. Secondly,after his funeral, his sister Cora Lansquenet says, 'He wasmurdered, wasn't he ?' Thirdly Mrs. Lansquenet is killed.The question is, are those three things part of a sequence ? Let us observe what happens next ? MissGilchrist, the deadwoman's companion, is taken ill after eating a piece of weddingcake which contains arsenic. That, then, is the next step inthe sequence."Now, as I told you this morning, in the course of myinquiries I have come across nothing--nothing at all, tosubstantiate the belief that Mr. Abernethie was poispned.Equally, I may say, I have found nothing to prove conclusivelythat he was not poisoned. But as we proceed, things becomeeasier. Cora Lansquenet undoubtedly asked that sensationalquestion at the funeral. Everyone agrees upon that. Andundoubtedly, on the following day, Mrs. Lansquenet wasmurdered--a hatchet being the instrument employed. Nowlet us examine the fourth happening. The local post van drix*eris strongly of the beliefthough he will not definitely swearto it---that he did not deliver that parcel of wedding cake inthe usual way. And if that is so, then the parcel was leftby hand and though we cannot exclude a ' person unknown'--we must take particular notice of those people who wereactually on the spot and in a position to put the parcel whereit was subsequently found. Those were: Miss Gilchristherself, of course; Susan Banks who came down that dayfor the inquest; Mr. Entwhistle (but yes, we must considerMr. Entwhistle; he was present, remember, when Cork madeher disquieting remark I) And there were two other people.An old gentleman who represented himself to be a Mr. Gutkrie,an art critic, and a nun or nuns wire called early that morningto collect a subscription."Now I decided that I would start on the assumption thatthe postal van driver's recollection was correct. Thereforethe little group of people under suspicion must be verycarefully studied. Miss Gilchrist did not benefit in any wayby Richard Abernethie's death and in only a very minutedegree by Mrs. Lansquenet's--in actual fact the death of thelatter put her out of employment and left her with the possibilityof finding it difficult to get new employment. AlsoMiss Gilchrist was taken to hospital definitely suffering fromarsenical poisoning.x83"Susan Banks did benefit from Richard Abernethie'sdeath, and in a small degree from Mrs. Lansquenet's--thoughhere her motive must almost certainly have been security.She might have very good reason to believe that Miss Gilchristhad overheard a conversation between Cora Lansquenet andher brother which referred to her, and she might thereforedecide that Miss Gilchrist must be eliminated. She herself,remember, refused to partake of the wedding cake and alsosuggested not calling in a doctor until the morning, whenMigs Gilchrist was taken ill in the night."Mr. Entwhistle did not benefit by either of the deaths--buthe had had considerable control over Mr. Abernethie'saffairs, and the trust funds, and there might well be somereason why Richard Abernethie should not live too long.IBut--you will say--if it is Mr. Entwhistle who was concerned,why should he come to me ?"And to that I will answer--it is not the first time thata murderer has been too sure of himself."We now come to what I may call the two outsiders.Mr. Guthrie and a nun. If Mr. Guthrie is really Mr. Guthrie,the art critic, then that clears him. The same applies to thenun, if she is really a nun. The question is, are these peoplethemselves, or are they somebody else ?"And I may say that there seems to be a curious---motif-one might call it--of a nun running through this business.A nun comes to the door of Mr. Timothy Abernethie's houseand Miss Gilchrist believes it is the same nun she has seen atLychett St. Mary. Also a nun, or nuns, called here the daybefore Mr. Abernethie died..."George Crossfield murmured, "Three to one, the nun."Poirot went on:"So he we have certain pieces of our pattern--the deathof Mr. Abernethie, the murder of Cora Lansq,uenet, the poi-sonedwedding cake, the ' motif' of the ' nun."I will add some other features of the case that engagedmy attention:"The visit of an art critic, a smell of oil paint, a picturepostcard of Polflexan harbour, and finally a bouquet of waxflowers standing on that malachite table where a Chinesevase stands now."It was reflecting on these things that led me to the truthmand I am now about to tell you the truth."The first part of it I told you this morning. RichardAberuethie died suddenly--but there would have been noreason at all to suspect foul play had it not been for thet84words uttered by his sister Cora at his funeral. Th whole cssfor the murder of Richard A bernethie rests upon thos words. As a result of them, you all believed thatmurder had takenplace, and you believed it, not really because of the wordsthemselves but because of the character of Cora Lansquenetherself. For Cora Lansquenet had always been famous forspeaking the truth at awkward moments. So the case forRichard's murder rested not only upon what Cora had said but upon Cora herself."And now I come to the question that I suddenly askedmyself:"How well did you all know Cora Lansquenet ?"He was silent for a moment, and Susan asked sharply,"What do you mean ?"Poirot went on:"Not well at a//---that is the answer I The younger generationhad never seen her at all, or if so, only when they werevery young children. There were actually only three peoplepresent that day who actually knew Cora. Lanscombe, thebutler, who is old and very blind; Mrs. Timothy Abernethiewho had only seen her a few times round about the date ofher own wedding, and Mrs. Leo Abernethie who had knownher quite well, but who had not seen her for over twentyyears."So I said to myself: ' Supposing it was not Cora Lansquenetwho came to the funeral that day ? '""Do you mean that Aunt Cora--wasn't Aunt Cora ?"Susan demanded incredulously. "Do you mean tlaat it wasn'tAunt Cora who was murdered, but someone else ?""No, no, it was Cora Lansquenet who was murdered. But it was not Cora Lansquenet who came theday before toher brother's funeral. The woman who came that day camefor one purpose only--to exploit, one may say, the fact thatRichard died suddenly. And to create in the minds of hisrelations the belief that he had been murdered. Which shemanaged to do most successfully I""Nonsense I Why ? What was the point of it ?" Maudespoke bluffly."Why ? To draw attention away from the other murder. From the murder of Cora Lansquenet herself.For if Corasays that Richard has been murdered and the next day sheherself is killed, the two deaths are bound to be at leastconsidered as possible cause and effect. But if Cora is murderedand her cottage is broken into, and if the apparent robberydoes not convince the police, then they will lookmwhere ?x85Close at home, will they not ? Suspicion will tend to fall onthe woman who shares the house with her."Miss Gilchrist protested in a tone that was almost bright:"Oh come---really--Mr. Pontarlier--you don't suggest I'dcommit a murder for an amethyst brooch and a few worthlesssketches ?""No," said Poirot. "For a little more than that. Therewas one of those sketches, Miss Gilchrist, that representedPolflexan harbour and which, as Mrs. Banks was clever enoughto realise, had been c.o-I?ed from a picture postcard whichshowed the old pier still in position. But Mrs. Lansquenetpainted always from life. I remembered then that Mr. Ent-whistlehad mentioned there being a srll of oil paint in thecottage when he first got there. You can paint, can't you,Miss Gilchrist ? Your father was an artist and you know agood deal about pictures. Supposing that one of the picturesthat Cora picked up cheaply at a sale was a valuable picture.Supposing that she herself did not recotgnise it for what it was,but that you did. You knew she was expecting, very shortly,a visit from an old friend of hers who was a well-known artcritic. Then her brother dies suddenly--and a plan leapsinto your head. Easy to administer a sedative to her in herearly cup of tea that will keep her unconscious for the wholeof the day of the funeral whilst you yourself are playing herpart at Enderby. You know Enderby well from listening toher talk about it. She has talked, as people do when theyget on in life, a great deal about her childhood days. Easyfor you to start off by a remark to old Lanscombe aboutmeringues and huts which will make him quite sure of youridentity in case he was inclined to doubt. Yes, you used yourknowledge of Enderby well that day, with allusions to thisand that, and recalling memories. None of them suspectedyou were not Cora. You were wearing her clothes, slightlypadded, and since she wore a false front of hair, it was easyfor you to assume that. Nobody had seen Cora for twentyyears--and in twenty years people change so much that oneoften hears the remark: ' I would never have known her I 'But mannerisms are remembered, and Cora had certain verydefinite mannerisms, all of which you had practised carefullybefore the glass."And it was there, strangely enough, that you made yourfirst mistake. You forgot that a mirror imag is rvrsd. When you saw in the glass the perfect reproductionof Cora'sbird-like sidewise tilt of the head, you didn't realise that itwas actually the wrong way round. You saw, let us say, Cora86inclining her head to the right--but you forgot that actuallyyour own head was inclined to the lft to produce, that effectn th glass."That was what puzzled and worried Helen Abernethie atthe moment when you made your famous insinuation. Somethingseemed to her' wrong.' I realised myself the other nightwhen Rosamund Shane made an unexpected remark whathappens on such an occasion. Everybody inevitably looks atthe speaker. Therefore, when Mrs. Leo felt something was'wrong,' it must be that something was wrong with CoraLansqusntt. The other evening, after talk about mirrorimages and 'seeing oneself' I think Mrs. Leo experimentedbefore a looking-glass. Her own face is not particularlyasymmetrical. She probably thought of Cora, rememberedhow Cora used to incline her head to the right, did so, andlooked in the glass when, of course, the image seemed to her'wrong' and she realised, in a flash, just what had beenwrong on the day of the funeral. She puzzled it out--eitherCora had taken to inclining her head in the opposite direction--most unlikely--or else Cora had not ben Cora. Neither wayseemed to her to make sense. But she determined to tellMr..Entwhistle of her discovery at once. Someone who wasused to getting up early was already about, and followed herdown, and fearful of what revelations she might be about tomake struck her down with a heavy doorstop."Poirot paused and added:"I may as well tell you now, Miss Gilchrist, that Mrs.Abernetkie's concussion is not serious. She will soon be ableto tell us her own story.""I never did anything of the sort," said Miss Gilchrist."The whole thing is a wicked lie.""It was you that day," said Michael Shane suddenly. Hehad been studying Miss Gilchrist's face. "I ought to haveseen it sooner--I felt in a vague kind of way I had seen youbefore somewhere---but of course one never looks muchat "he stopped."No, one doesn't bother to look at a mere companion-help,"said Miss Gilchxist. Her voice shook a little. "A drudge, adomestic drudge I Almost a servant I But go on, M. Poirot.Go on with this fantastic piece of nonsense 1""The suggestion of murder thrown out at the funeral was.only the first step, of course," said Poirot. "You had moren reserve. At any moment you were prepared to admit tohaving listened to a conversation between Richard and hissister. What he actually told her, no doubt, was the fact thatx87he had not long to live, and that explains a cryptic phrase inthe letter he wrote her after getting home. The ' nun ' wasanother of your suggestions. The nun--or rather nuns--whocalled at the cottage on the day of the inquest suggested toyou a mention of a nun who was ' following you round,' and?u used that when you were anxious to hear what Mrs.mothy was saying to her sister-in-law at Enderby. Andalso because you wished to accompany her there and find outfor yourself lust how suspicions were going. Actually topoison yourself, badly but not fatally, with arsenic, is a veryold device--and I may say ,that it served to awaken InspectorMorton's suspicions of you."But the picture ?" said Rosamund. "What kind of apicture was it ?"Poirot slowly unfolded a telegram."Ths' morningv I rangy up Mr. Entwhistle,. a responsibleperson, to go to Stansfield Grange and, acting on aumonryfrom Mr. Abernethie himself" (here Poirot gave a hard stareat Timothy) "to look amongst the pictures in Miss Gilchrist'sroom and select the one of Polflexan Harbour on pretext ofhaving it reframed as a surprise for Miss Gilchrist. He wasto take it back to London and call upon Mr. Guthrie whom Ihad warned by telegram. The hastily painted sketch ofPolflexan Harbour was removed and the original pictureexposed."He held up the telegram and read:"Definitely a Vermeer. Guthrie."Suddenly, with electrifying effect, Miss Gilchrist burst intospeech."I knew it was a Vermeer. I knew it I She didn't know ITalking about Rembrandts and Italian Primitives and unableto recognise a Vermeer when it was under her nose I Alwaysprating about Art--and really knowing nothing about it!She was a thoroughly stupid woman. Always maundering onabout this place--about Enderby, and what they did there aschildren, and about Richard and Timothy and Laura and allthe rest of them. Rolling in money always! Always thebest of everything those children had. You don't know howboring it is listening to somebody going on about the samethings, hour after hour and day after day. And saying, ' Ohyes, Mrs. Lansquenet' and 'Really, Mrs. Lansquenet ?'Pretending to be interested. And really bored--bored-- bored... And nothing to look forward to... Andthen--aVermeer I I saw in the papers that a Vermeer sold the otherday for over five thousand pounds I"188"You killed her--in that brutal way--for five thousandpounds ?" Susan's voice was incredulous."Five thousand pounds," said Poirot, "would have rentedand equipped a teashop..."Miss Gflchrist turned to him."At least," she said. "You do understand. It was theonly chance I'd ever get. I had to have a capital sum." Hervoice vibrated with the force and obsession of her dream. "Iwas going to call it the Palm Tree. And have little camels asmenu holders. One can occasionally get quite nice china--export rejects--not that awful white utility stuff. I meantto start it in some nice neighbourhood where nice people wouldcome in. I had thought of Rye... Or perhaps Chichester...I'm sure I could have made a success of it." She paused aminute, then added musingly, "Oak tables--and little basketchairs with striped red and vhite cushions"Fora few moments, the tea-shop that would never be, seemed morereal than the Victorian solidity of the drawing-room at Enderby...Itwas Inspector Morton who broke the spell.MissGilchrist tu,,rned to him quite politely."Oh,certainly, she said. "At once. I don't want to giveany trouble, I'm sure. After all, if I can't have the PalmTree, notking really seems to matter very much ....Shewent out of the room with him and Susan said, her voicestill shaken:"I've never imagined a lady-lille murderer. It's horrible ....CHAPTERXXV"BuTI DON'T understand about the wax flowers," said Rosamund.Shefixed Poirot with large reproachful blue eyes.Theywere at Helen's flat in London. Helen herself was restingon the sofa and Rosamund and Poirot were having tea withher."I don't see that wax flowers had anything to do with it," saidRosamund. "Or the malachite table.""Themalachite table, no. But the wax flowers were MissGilchrist's second mistake. She said how nice they lookedon the malachite table. And you see, Madame, she couldnot have seen them there. Because they had been brokenand put away before she arrived with t-he Timothyt89Abernethies. So sh, could only haw s,en thetn wh, n shs wasthere as Cora Lansqutnet.""That was stupid of her, wasn't it ?" said Rosamund.Po[rot shook a forefinger at her."It shows you, Madame, the dangers of conversation. Itis a profound belief of mine that if you can induce a personto talk to you for long enough, on any subject whatever,sooner or later they will give themselves away. Miss Gilchristdid.""I shall have to be careful," said Rosamund thoughtfully.Then she brightened up."Did you know ? I'm going to have a baby.""Aha! So that is the meaning of Harley Street andRegent's Park ?""Yes. I was so upset, you know, and so surprised--that Ijust had to go somewhere and think.""You said, I remember, that that does not very oftenhappen.""Well, it's much easier not to. But this time I had todecide about the future. And I've decided to leave the stageand just be a mother.""A rlthat will suit you admirably. Already I foreseedelightful pictures in the Sketch and the Tatlsr."Rosamund smiled happily."Yes, it's wonderful. Do you know, Michael is dlighted.I didn't really think he would be."She paused and added:"Susan's got the malachite table. I thought, as I washaving a baby "She left the sentence unfinished."Susan's cosmetic business promises well," said Helen."I think she is all set for a big success.""Yes, she ,;a born to succeed," said Poirot. She is likeher uncle.""You mean Richard, I suppose," said Rosamund. "NotTimothy ?""Assuredly not like Timothy," said Poirot.They laughed."Greg's away somewhere," said Rosamund. "Having arest cure Susan says ?"She looked inquiringly at Poirot who said nothing."I can't think why he kept on saying he'd killed UncleRichard," said Rosamund. "Do you think it was a form ofExhibitionism ?"Poirot reverted to the previous topic.x9o"I received a very amiable letter from Mr. Timothy Abernethie,"he said. "He expressed himself as highly satisfiedwith the services I had rendered the family."I do think Uncle Timothy is quite awful, said Rosamund."I rn going to stay with them next week," said Helen."They seem to be getting the gardens into order, but domestichelp is still diffcult.""They miss the awful Gilchrist, I suppose," said Rosamund."But I dare say in the end, she'd have killed Uncle Timothytoo. What fun if she had I""Murder has always seemed fun to you, Madame.""Oh I not really," said Rosamund, vaguely. "But I did think it was George." She brightened up. "Perhapshe willdo one some day.""And that will be fun," said Poirot srcastically."Yes, won't it ?" Rosamund agreed.She ate another clair from the plate in front of her.Poirot turned to Helen."And you, Madame, are off to Cyprus ? '"Yes, in a fortnight's time.""Then let me wish you a happy journey."He bowed over her hand. She came with him to the door,leaving Rosamund dreamily stuffing herself with creampastries.Helen sid abruptly:"I should like you to know, M. Poirot, that the legacyRichard left me meant more to me than theirs did to any ofthe others.""As much as that, Madame ?""Yes. You see--there is a child in Cyprus... My husbandand I were very devoted it was a great sorrow to us to haveno children. After he died my loneliness was unbelievable.When I was nursing in London at the end of the war, I metsomeone... He was younger than I was and married,though not very happily. We came together for a little while.That was all. He went back to Canada--to his wife andhis children. He never knew about--our child. He wouldnot have wanted it. I did. It seemed like a miracle tome--a middle-aged woman with everything behind her.With Richard's money I can educate my so-called nephew,,,ad give him a start in life." She paused, then added,I never told Richard. He was fond of me and I of him--buthe would not have understood. You know so much aboutus all that I thought I would like you to know this aboutOnce again Poirot bowed over her hand.He got home to find the armchair on the left of the fireplaceoccupied."Hallo, Poirot,' said Mr. Entwhistle. "I've just comeback from the Assizes. They brought in a verdict of Guilty,of course. But I shouldn't be surprised if she ends up nBroadmoor. She's gone definitely over the edge since she'sbeen in prison. Quite happy, you know, and most gracious.She spends most of her time making the most elaborate plansto run a chain of tea-shops. Her newest establishment is tobe the Lilac Bush. She's opening it in Cromer.""One wonders if she was always a little mad ? But me, Ithink not.""Good Lord, no 1 Sane as you and I when she planned thatmurder. Carried it out in cold blood. She's got a good headon her, you know, underneath the fluffy manner."Poirot gave a little shiver."I am thinking," he said, "of some words that SusanBanks said--that she had never imagined a lady-likmur-derer.''"Why not ?" said Mr. Entwhistle. "It takes all sorts."They were silent--and Poirot thought of murderers heknown...TH ENDAbout this TitleThis eBook was created using ReaderWorksPublisher 2.0, produced by OverDrive, Inc.For more information about ReaderWorks, please visit us on the Web atwww.overdrive.com/readerworks...
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