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16 YEARS AGO... murder
committed. Now, the convicted killer was dead. And the
tangible clues--the cigarette ends, the
footprints, the bent blades of grass--were long
But still the strong scent of mystery hung in the air.
The mystery that surrounded the startling case of a talented
who brought to his wife's
beautiful model he loved--and died for.
With over 200 million copies of her books
sold, Agatha Christie is unequalled as a
renowned and distinguished author of ingenious
tales of mystery and suspense.
A DELL MYSTERY
DELL PUBLISHING CO., INC.
750 Third Avenue
New York, N.y. 10017
Copyright [*copygg'1941,1942 by Agatha
Dell [*reggg'TM 681510, Dell
Publishing Co., Inc.
All rights reserved
Reprinted by arrangement with Dodd, Mead and
Company, Inc. New York, N.y.
Previous Dell Edition-D384 New Dell Edition
First Printing-January 1966
Printed in U.S.A.
hercule poirot looked with interest and appreciation
at the young woman who was being ushered into the room.
There had been nothing distinctive in the letter she had
written. It had been a mere request for an
appointment, with no hint of what lay behind that
request. It had been brief and businesslike.
Only the firmness of the handwriting had indicated that
Carla Lemarchant was a young woman.
And now here she was in the flesh-a tall, slender young
woman in the early twenties. The kind of young
woman that one definitely looked at twice. Her
clothes were good: an expensive, well-cut coat and
skirt and luxurious furs. Her head was well
poised on her shoulders, she had a square brow, a
sensitively cut nose, and a determined chin. She
looked very much alive. It was her aliveness more than
her beauty that struck the predominant note.
Before her entrance, Hercule Poirot had been
feeling old-now he felt rejuvenated,
alive-keen! As he came forward to greet her, he
was aware of her dark-gray eyes studying him
attentively. She was very earnest in that scrutiny.
She sat down and accepted the cigarette that hi
offered her. After it was lit she sat for a minute or
two smoking, still looking at him with that earnest,
Poirot said gently, "Yes, it has to be
decided, does it not?"
She started. "I beg your pardon?" Her
voice was attractive, with a faint, agreeable
huskiness in it.
"You are making up your mind-are you not?-whether I am
a mere mountebank or the man you need."
She smiled. She said, "Well, yes-something of that
kind. You see, M. Poirot, you-you don't look
exactly the way I pictured you."
"And I am old, am I not? Older than you
"Yes, that, too." She hesitated. "I'm being
frank, you see. I want-I've got to have-the
"Rest assured," said Hercule Poirot, "I
Carla said, "You're not modest All the same,
I'm inclined to take you at your word."
Poirot said placidly, "One does not, you know, employ merely the muscles. I do not need to bend
and measure the footprints and pick up the
cigarette ends and examine the bent blades of
grass. It is enough for me to sit back in my chair
It is this-was he tapped his egg-shaped head"this,
"I know," said Carla Lemarchant. "That's why
I've come to you. I want you, you see, to do something
"That," said Hercule Poirot, "promises
He looked at her in encouragement.
Carla Lemarchant drew a deep breath. "My
name," she said, "isn't Carla. It's Caroline.
The same as my mother's. I was called after her."
She paused. "And though I've always gone by the name of
Lemarchant-ever since I can remember almost-that
isn't my real name. My real name is Crale."
Hercule Poirot's forehead creased a moment
perplexedly. He murmured, "Crale- I seem
She said, "My father was a painter-rather a well-known
painter. Some people say he was a great painter. still think he was."
She paused, then she went on. "And my mother,
Caroline Crale, was tried for murdering him!"
"Aha," said Poirot. "I remember
now-but only vaguely. I was abroad at the time.
It was a long time ago."
"Sixteen years," said the girl. Her face was very
white now and her eyes were two burning lights. "Do
She was tried and convicted.
She wasn't hanged because they felt that there were
Murder In Retrospect7stances, so the sentence
was commuted to penal servitudefor life. But she died
only a year after the trial. You see?It's all
Poirot said quietly, "And so?"
The girl called Carla Lemarchant pressed her
hands together. She spoke slowly and haltingly but with
an odd, pointed emphasis. "You've got
to understand-exactly- where I come in. I was five
years old at the time it-happened. Too young to know
anything about it. I remember my mpther and my father, of course, and I remember leaving home
suddenly-being taken to the country. I remember the
pigs and a nice fat farmer's wife-and everybody
being very kind-and I remember, quite clearly, the funny
way they used to look at me-everybody-a sort of
furtive look. I knew, of course-children
do-that there was something wrong-but I didn't know what.
"And then I went on a ship-it was exciting-it went
on for days and then I was in Canada and Uncle
Simon met me, and I lived in Montreal with him
and with Aunt Louise, and when I asked about Mummy
and Daddy they said they'd be coming soon. And then-and then
I think I forgot-only I sort of knew that they
were dead without remembering anyone actually telling me
so. Because by that time, you see, I didn't think about them
any more. I was very happy, you know. Uncle Simon
and Aunt Louise were sweet to me, and I went
to school and had a lot of friends, and I'd quite forgotten
that I'd ever had another name, not Lemarchant.
Aunt Louise, you see, told me that that was my name
in Canada and that seemed quite sensible to me at the
time-it was just my Canadian name-but as I say I
forgot in the end that I'd ever had any other."
She flung up her defiant chin. She said,
"Look at me. You'd say-wouldn't you?-if you met
me: 'There goes a girl who's got nothing to worry abl" I'm well off, I've got
splendid health, I'm sufficiently good to look
at, I can enjoy life. At twenty, there wasn't
a girl anywhere I'd have changed places with.
"But already, you know, I'd begun to ask questions.
8Murder In RetrospectAbout my own mother and
father. Who they were andwhat they did. I'd have been bound
to find out in the end.?As it was, they told me the
truth. When I was twenty-one. They had to then, because
for one thing I came intomy own money. And then, you
see, there was the letter.The letter my mother left for me when
Her expression changed, dimmed. Her eyes were no
longer two burning points-they were dark, dim
pools. She said, "That's when I learned the truth.
That my mother had been convicted of murder. It was-rather
She paused. "There's something else I must tell
you. I was engaged to be married. They said we must
wait-that we couldn't be married until I was
twenty-one. When I knew, I understood why."
Poirot stirred and spoke for the first tune. He
said, "And what was your fiance's reaction?"
"John? John didn't care. He said it made
no difference comn to him. He and I were John and Carla-and the past didn't matter."
She leaned forward. "We're still engaged. But all the
same, you know, it
matter. It matters to me. And it matters
to John, too. It isn't the past that matters to usit's the future." She clenched her hands. "We
want children, you see. We both want children. And we
don't want to watch our children growing up and be
"Do you not realize," Poirot said, "that among
everyone's ancestors there has been violence and
"You don't understand. That's so, of course. But, then,
one doesn't usually know about it. We do. It's very
near to us. And-sometimes-I've seen John just-look
at me. Such a quick glance-just a flash. Supposing
we were married and we'd quarreled-and I saw him
look at me and- and
Hercule Poirot said, "How was your father killed?"
Carla's voice came clear and firm. "He was
Hercule Poirot said, "I see."
There was a silence.
Then the girl said in a calm, matter-of-fact voice,
Murder In Retnxpect9 "Thank goodness, you're
sensible. You see that it does matter-and what it
involves. You don't try to patch it up and
trot out consoling phrases."
"I understand very well," said Poirot. "What I do
understand is what you want of
want to marry Johnl" Carla Lemarchant said
simply. "And I mean to marry Johnl And I
want to have at least two girls and two boys. And
you're going to make that possible!"
ik "You mean-you want me to talk to your fiance"?
it is idiocy what I say there! It is something quite
different that you are suggesting. Tell me what is in
"Listen, M. Poirot. Get this-and get it
clearly. I'm hiring you to investigate a case of
"Do you mean-was
right-brace "Yes, I do mean. A case of murder is a
case of murder whether it happened yesterday or
sixteen years ago."
"But, my dear young lady-was
"Wait, M. Poirot You haven't got it all
yet There's a very important point"
U "My mother was innocent," said Carla
[*reg] Hercule Poirot rubbed his nose.
He murmured, "Well,
naturally-I comprehend that-was "It isn't sentiment.
There's her letter. She left it for me
before she died. It was to be given to me when I was
twenflty-one. She left it for that one reason-that I
should be jjfquite sure. That's all that was in it That
she hadn't done
f't-that she was innocent-that I could be sure of that
Iways." Hercule Poirot looked thoughtfully
at the young, vital Iface staring so earnestly at
him. He said slowly,
"Tout de jjfneme caret
f bar Carla smiled. "No, Mother wasn't like that!
You're fjthinking that it might be a lie-a sentimental lie." She be'Just bar ,ned forward earnestly.
"Listen, M. Poirot, there are Ijiome things that
children know quite well. I can rememi bar
greater-than er my mother-a patchy remembrance, of
course, but I
remember quite well the
of person she was. She didn't tell lies-kind lies. If a thing was going to hurt she always
told you so. Dentists, or thorns in your finger-all that sort of thing. Truth was a--a natural
impulse to her. I wasn't, I don't think,
specially fond of her--but I trusted her. I
trust herl If she says she didn t kill my
father, then she didn't kill himl She wasn't the
sort of person who would solemnly write down a
lie when she knew she was dying."
Slowly, almost reluctantly, Hercule Poirot
bowed his head.
Carla went on. "That's why it's all right for
to marry John. I know it's all right.
But he doesn't.
He feels that naturally I would think my mother was innocent. It's got to be cleared up, M.
going to do itI"
Hercule Poirot said slowly, "Granted that what
you say is true, mademoiselle, sixteen years
have gone byFrom"
Carla Lemarchant said, "Oh, of course it's
going to be
could do it!"
Hercule Poirot's eyes twinkled slightly.
"You give me the best butter--hein?" he said.
"I've heard about you," Carla said. "The things
you've done. The
you have done them. It's psychology that interests you,
isn't it? Well, that doesn't change with time. The
tangible things are gone--the cigarette end and the
footprints and the bent blades of grass. You can't
look for those any more. But you can go over all the
facts of the case, and perhaps talk to the people who were there
at the time--they re all alive still-and then--and then, as
you said just now, you can lie back in your chair and think. And you'll know what really happened."
Hercule Poirot rose to his feet.
One hand caressed his mustache. He said,
"Mademoiselle, I am honoredl I will
justify your faith in me. I will investigate your
case of murder. I will search back into the events of
sixteen years ago and I will find out the iruth."
Carla got up. Her eyes were shining. But she only
said, "Good." Hercule Poirot shook an
eloquent forefinger. "One little
moment. I have said I will find out the truth, I do not,
you understand, have the bias. I do not accept your
assurance of your mother's innocence. If she was
Carla's head went back. "I'm her daughter,"
she said. "I want the truthl" Hercule Poirot
then. Though it is not that, that I should say. On the
"Do I remember the Crale case?" asked Sir
Montague Depleach. "Certainly I do. Remember it very well. Most attractive
woman. But unbalanced, of course. No
self-control." He glanced sideways at
Poirot. "What makes you ask me about it?"
"I am interested."
"Not really tactful of you, my dear man," said
Depleach, showing his teeth in his sudden famous
"wolf's smile," which had been reputed to have such a
terrifying effect upon witnesses. "Not one of my
successes, you know. I
didn't get her off."
Sir Montague shrugged his shoulders. He said,
"Of course, I hadn't quite as much experience then as
I have now. All the sam-e, I think I did
all that could humanly be done. One can't do much without
get it commuted to penal servitude. Provocation, you
know. Lots of respectable wives and mothers got up
a petition. There was a lot of sympathy for her."
He leaned back, stretching out his long legs. His
face took on a judicial, appraising look.
"If she'd shot him, you know, or even knifed him-I'd have gone all out for manslaughter.
But poison--no, you can't play tricks with that.
It's tricky--very tricky."
"What was the defense?" asked Hercule Poirot.
He knew because he had already read the newspaper
files but he saw no harm in playing completely
ignorant to Sir Montagne.
"Oh, suicide. Only thing you
go for. But it didn't
12 Murder In Retrospect go down well.
Crale simply wasn't that kind of manl You never
met him, I suppose? No? Well, he was a
great, blustering, vivid sort of chap. Great beer
drinker. Went in for the lusts of the flesh and enjoyed
them. You can't persuade a jury that a man like that is
going to sit down and quietly do away with himself. It
just doesn't fit. No, I was afraid I was up
against a losing proposition from the first. And she wouldn't
play upl I knew we'd lost as soon as she
went into the box. No fight in her at all. But there
it is-if you
put your client into the box, the jury draw their own
conclusions." Poirot said, "Is that what you meant when you
said just now that one cannot do much without cooperation?"
"Absolutely, my dear fellow. We're not
magicians, you know. Half the battle is the
impression the accused makes on the jury. I've
known juries time and again bring in verdicts dead against
the judge's summing up. "E did it, all right'
--that's the poin-t of view. Or
did a thing like that--don't tell reel' Caroline
Crale didn't even
try to put up a fight."
"Why was that?"
Sir Montague shrugged his shoulders. "Don't
ask me. Of course, she was fond of the fellow.
,Broke her affful up when she came to and realized
what she d done. Don t believe she ever
rallied from the shock."
""So in your opinion she was guilty?"
Depleach looked rather startled. He said, "Er-well, I thought we were taking that for granted."
"Did she ever admit to you that she was guilty?,"
Depleach looked shocked. "Of course not--of
course not. We have our code, you know. Innocence is
always--er-- assumed. If you're so interested it's a
pity you can't get hold of old Mayhew. Mayhews were the solicitors who briefed me.
Old Mayhew could have told you more than I can. But
there--he's joined the great majority. There's young
George Mayhew, of course, but he was only a
boy at the time. It's a long time ago, you know."
"Yes, I know. It is fortunate for me that you
SO much. You have a remarkable memory."
Depleach looked pleased. He murmured, "Oh,
well, one remembers the main headings, you know.
Especially when it's a capital charge. And, of
course, the Crale case got a lot of
publicity from the press. Lot of sex interest and
all that. The girl in the case was pretty striking.
Hard-boiled piece of goods, I thought." "You will
forgive me if I seem too insistent," said
Poirot, "but I repeat once more, you had no
doubt of Caroline Crale's guilt?" Depleach
shrugged his shoulders. "Frankly, as man to man,"
he said, "I don't think there's much doubt about it.
Oh, yes, she did it, all right." "What was the
evidence against her?" "Very damning indeed. First of
all, there was motive. She and Ca'ale had led a
kind of cat-and-dog life for years cominterminable
rows. He was always getting mixed up with some woman or other. Couldn't help it. He was that kind
of man. She stood it pretty well on the whole.
Made allowances for him on the score of temperament
--and the man really was a first-class painter, you know.
His stuff's gone up enormously in price-enormously. Don't care for that style of painting
myself--ugly, forceful stufI, but it's good --no
doubt of that. "Well, as I say, there had been
trouble about women from time to time. Mrs. Crale
wasn't the meek kind who suffers in silence. There
were rows, all right. But he always came back to her in
the end. These affairs of his blew over. But this final
affair was rather different. It was a girl, you see--and
quite a young girl. She was only twenty. "Elsa
Greer, that was her name. She was the only daughter of
some Yorkshire manufacturer. She had money and
determination and she knew what she wanted. What she
wanted was Amyas Crale. She got him to paint
her-he didn t paint regular society
portraits, "Mrs. Blinkety Blank in pink
satin and pearls, but he painted figures. I don
t know that most women would have cared to be painted by hlm
--he didn't spare themt But he painted the Greer
Mu In Reospec@c13
SO much. You have a remarkable memory." Depleach looked pleased. He murmured, "Oh,
well, one remembers the main headings, you know.
Especially when it's a capital charge. And, of
course, the Crale case got a lot of pblicity
from the press. Lot of sex interest and all that. The
girl in the case was pretty striking. Hard-boiled
piece of goods, I thought." "You will forgive me if
I seem too insistent," said Poirot, "but I
repeat once more, you had no doubt of Caroline
Cale's guilt?" Depleach shrugged his shoulders.
"Frankly, as man to man," he said, "I don't
think there's much doubt about it. Oh, yes, she did
it, all right." "What was the evidence against her?"
"Very damning indeed. First of all, there was motive.
She and Ca-ale had led a kind of cat-and-dog
life for years --interminable rows. He was always
getting mixed up with some woman or other. Couldn't
help it. He was that kind of man. She stood it
pretty well on the whole. Made allowances for
him on the score of temperament--and the man really was
a first-class painter, you know. His stuff's gone up
enormously in price--enormously. Don't care
for that style of painting myself--ugly, forceful stuff,
good --no doubt of that. "Well, as I say, there had
been trouble about women from time to time. Mrs. Caccale
wasn't the meek kind who suffers in silence. There
were rows, all right. But he always came back to her in
the end. These affairs of his blew over. But this final
affair was rather different. It was a girl, you see--and
quite a young girl. She was only twenty. "Elsa
Greer, that was her name. She was the only daughter of
some Yorkshire manufacturer. She had money and
determination and she knew what she wanted. What she
wanted was Amyas Crale. She got him to paint
her--he didn t paint regular society
portraits, Mrs. Blinkety Blank in pink
satin and pearls," but he painted figures. I
don't know that most women would have cared to be painted
by him--he didn't spare themt But he painted the
14 Murder In Retrospect and he ended
by falling for her good and proper. He was getting on for
forty, you know, and he'd been married a good many
years. He was just ripe for making a fool of himself
over some chit of a girl. Elsa Greer was the
girl. He was crazy about her and his idea was to get
a divorce from his wife and marry Elsa.
"Caroline Crale wasn't standing for that. She
threatened him. She was overheard by two people to say that if he didn't give the girl up she'd kill
him. And she meant it, all rightl The day before it
happened, they'd been having tea with a neighbor.
He was by way of dabbling in herbs and home-brewed
medicines. Among his patent brews was one of
coniine-spotted hemlock. There was some talk
bout it and its deadly properties.
"The next day he noticed that half the contents of the
bottle were gone. Got the wind up about it. They
found an almost empty bottle of it in Mrs.
Crale s room, hidden away at the bottom of a
Hercule Poirot moved uncomfortably. He
said, "Somebody else might have put it there."
"Oh, she admitted it to the lolice. Very unwise,
of course, but she didn't have a solicator
to advise her at that stage. When they asked her about
it, she admitted quite
frankly that she had taken it."
"For what reason?"
"She made out that she'd taken it with the idea of doing
herself in. She couldn't explain how the bottle
came to be empty--nor how it was that there were
only her fingerprints on it. That part of it was
pretty damning. She contended, you see, that Amyas Crale had committed suicide. But if he'd
taken the coniine from the bottle she'd hidden in her
fingerprints would have been on the bottle as well as
"It was given him in beer, was it not?"
"Yes. She got out the bottle from the
refrigerator and took it down herself to where he was
painting in the garden. She poured it out and gave it
to him and watched him drink it. Everyone went up
to lunch and left him-he often didn't come in to meals. Afterward she and the
governess found him there dead. Her story was that the beer
gave him was all right. Our theory was that he suddenly
felt so worried and remorseful that he slipped the
poison in himself. All poppycock--he wasn't
that kind of manl And the fingerprint evidence was the most
damning of all."
"They found her fingerprints on the beer bottle?"
"No, they didn't--they found only
they were phony ones. She was alone with the body, you
see, while the governess went to call up a
doctor. And what she must have done was to wipe the bottle and glass and then press his fingers on them.
She wanted to pretend, you see, that she'd never even
handled the stuff. Well, that didn't work. Old
Rudolph, who was prosecuting, had a lot of fun
with that-proved quite definitely by demonstration in court
that a man
hold a bottle with his fingers in that positionl Of
did our best to prove that he
--that his hands would take up a contorted attitude
when he was dying-but frankly our stuff wasn't very
"The coniine in the beer bottle," Poirot said,
"must have been put there before she took it down to the
"There was no coniine in the bottle at all.
Only in the
glepleach caret -"" paused--his large, handsome
face suddenly altered-he turned his head
Hullo, he said. Now, then, Poirot,
what are you driving at?" Poirot said,
Caroline Crale was innocent, how did that coniine
get into the beer? The defense said at the time that
Amyas Crale himself put it there. But you say to me
that that was in the highest degree unlikely-and for my part
I agree with you. He was not that kind of man. Then,
if Caroline Crale did not do it,
someone else did.""
Depleach saffd with almost a splutter, "Oh,
damn it all, man, you can t flog a dead
horse. It s all over and done
16 Murder In Retrospect with years ago. Of
course she did it. You'd know that well enough if you'd
seen her at the time. It was written all over herl
I even fancy that the verdict was a relief to her.
She wasn't frightened. No nerves at all. Just
wanted to get through the trial and have it over. A very
brave woman, really."
"And yet," said Hercule Poirot, "when she died
she left a letter to be given to her daughter in which she
swore solemnly that she was innocent. Now
her daughter wants the truth."
"H'm--I'm afraid she'll find the truth
unpalatable. Honestly, Poirot, I don't
think there's any doubt about it. She killed him." "You will forgive me, my friend, but I must satisfy
myself on that point."
"Well, I don't know what more you can do. You can
read up the newspaper accounts of the trial.
Humphrey Rudolph appeared for the Crown.
He's dead--let me see, who was his junior?
Young Fogg, I think. Yes, Fogg. You can have a
chat with him. And then there are the people who were there at the
time. Don't suppose they'll enjoy your butting in
and raking the whole thing up, but I dare say you'll
get what you want out of them. You're a plausible
"Ah, yes, the people concerned. That is very important.
You remember, perhaps, who they were?"
Depleach considered. "Let me see--it's a long
time ago. There were only five people who were really in it,
so to speak--I'm not counting the servants--a couple
of faithful old things, scared-looking creatures-they didn't know anything about anything. No one could
"There are five people, you say. Tell me about
them." "Well, there was Philip Blake. He was
Crale's greatest friend-had known him all his life.
He was staying in the house at the time.
He's alive. I see him now and again on the links.
Lives at St. George's Hill.
Stockbroker. Plays the markets and gets away
with it. Successful man, running to fat a bit."
"Yes. And who next?"
"Then there was Blake's elder brother. Country
squire--stay-at-home sort of chap."
A jingle ran through Poirot's head. He
repressed it. He must
always be thinking of nursery rhymes. It seemed an
obsession with him lately. And yet the jingle
This little pig went to market, this little pig stayed at
home . . o
He murmured, "He stayed at home--yes?"
,He's the fellow I was telling you about--messed about
with drugs-and herbs-bit of a chemist. His hobby.
What was his name, now? Literary sort of name-I've got it. Meredith. Meredith Blake.
Don't know whether he's alive or not."
"And who next?"
"Next? Well, there's the cause of all the
troubledgThe girl in the case: Elsa Greer."
"This little pig ate roast beef," murmured
Poirot. Depleach stared at him. "They've fed her meat, all right," he said. "She's been a
go-getter. She's had three husbands since then.
In and out of the divorce court as easy as you please.
And every time she makes a change, it's for the better.
Lady Dittisham--that's who she is now.
and you're sure to find her."
"And the other two?"
"There was the governess woman. I don't remember
her name. Nice, capable woman. Thompson-Jones--some-thing like that. And there was the child. Caroline
Crale's half sister. She must have been about
fifteen. She's made rather a name for herself. Digs
up things and goes trekking to the back of beyond. Warren
--that's her name. Angela Warren. Rather an alarming
young woman nowadays. I met her the other day."
"She is not, then, the little pig who cried,
Sir Montague Depleach looked at him
rather oddly. He said dryly, "She's had something
to cry wee-wee about in her life! She's
disfigured, you know. Got a bad scar down
18 Murder In Retrospect
one side of her face. She-oh, well, you'll hear all about it, I dare say."
Poirot stood up. He said, "I thank you. You
have been very kind. If Mrs. Crale did
kill her husband-was
Depleach interrupted him. "But she did, old
boy, she did. Take my word for it."
Poirot continued without taking any notice of the
interruption. "Then it seems logical to suppose
that one of these five people must have done so."
"One of them
have done it, I suppose," said De- pleach
doubtfully. "But I don't see why any of them
No reason at all[ In fact, I m quite sure
none of them
do it. Do get this bee out of your bonnet, old
But Hercule Poirot only smiled and shook his
"Guilty as hell," said Mr. Fogg
succinctly. Hercule Poirot looked
meditatively at the thin, clear- cut face of the
barrister. Quentin Fogg, K.C., was a very different type from Montague Depleach. Depleach
had force, magnetism, an overbearing and slightly
bullying personality. He got his effects by a
rapid and dramatic change of manner. Handsome,
urbane, charming, one minute--then an almost
transformation, lips back, snarling smile--out for
Quentin Fogg was thin, pale, singularly lacking in
what is called personality. His questions were quiet and
unemotional, but they were steadily persistent.
Hercule Poirot eyed him meditatively. "So
that," he said, "was how it struck you?"
Fogg nodded. He said, "You should have seen her in the
box. Old Humpie Rudolph (he was leading, you
know) simply made mincemeat of her. Mincemeatl"
He paused and then said unexpectedly, "On the
whole, you know, it was rather too much of a good thing."
"I am not sure," said Hercule
Poirot, "that I quite understand you."
Murder In Retrospect 19 Fogg drew his
delicately marked brows together. His sensitive hand
stroked his bare upper lip. "How shall I put it?"
he said. 'It's a very English point of view.
'Shooting the sitting bird" describes it best. Is that intelligible to you?"
"It is, as you say, a very English point of view,
but I think I understand you. In the Assize Court,
as on the playing fields of Eton, and in the hunting
country, the Englishman likes the victim to have a
"That's it, exactly. Well, in this case, the
have a chance. Humpie Rudolph did as he liked
It started with her examination by Depleach. She Stood
up there, you know-as docile as a little girl at a
party, answering Depleach's questions with the answers she'd
learned off by heart. Quite docile, word-perfect-and
absolutely unconvincingl She'd been told what
to say, and she said it. It wasn't Depleach's
fault. That old mountebank played his part
perfectly-but in any scene that needs two
actors, one alone can't carry it. She didn't
play up to him. It made the worst possible effect
on the jury. And then old Humpie got up. I
expect you've seen him? He's a great loss.
Hitching his gown up, swaying back on his feet, and
then--straight off the markl
"As I tell you, he made mincemeat of herl Led up to this and that-and she fell into the pitfall every time.
: got her to admit the absurdities of her own
statements, he got her to contradict herself, she
floundered in deeper and deeper. And then he wound up
with his usual stuff. Very compelling--very convinced: I
suggest to you, Mrs. Crale, that this story of yours
about stealing coniine in order to commit suicide is a
tissue of falsehood. I suggest that you took it
in order to administer it to your husband, who was about
to leave you for another woman, and that you
deliberately administer it to him." And she looked
at him-such a pretty creature, graceful,
delicate-and she said, 'Oh, no-no, I
didn't." It was the flattest thing you , ever heard,
the most unconvincing. I saw old Depleach
squirm in his seat. He knew it was all
Fogg paused a minute, then he went on.
'I'he jury were
only out just over half an hour. They brought her
in: i Guilty with a recommendation to mercy, i
"Actually, you know, she made a good contrast to the
i! other woman in the case. The girl. The jury were
unsympathetic to her from the start. She never turned a
hair. , Very goodddlooking, hard-boiled, modern.
To the women in the court she stood for a type-type
of the home breaker. Homes weren't safe when
girls like that were wandering abroad. Girls full of
sex and contemptuous of the rights of wives and mothers.
She didn't spare herself, I will say. She was
honest. Admirably honest. She'd fallen in
love with Amyas Crale and he with her and she'd no
scruples at all about taking him away from his wife
and child. "I admired her in a way. She had guts.
Depleach put in some nasty stuff in
cross-examination and she stood up well to it. But the
court was unsympathetic. And the judg didn't like
her. Old Avis, it was. Been a bit of a rip
him. self when young-but he s very hot on
morality when he's presiding in his robes. His
summing up against Caroline Crale was mildness itself.
He couldn't deny the facts but he threw out pretty
strong hints as to provocation and all that." Hercule
Poirot asked, "He did not support the
suicide theory of the defense?" Fogg shook his
"That never really had a leg to stand upon. Mind you, I
don't say Depleach didn't do his best with it.
He was magnificent. He painted a most moving picture of a greathearted, pleasure-loving,
tempera- mental man, suddenly overtaken by a
passion for a lovely young girl, conscience-stricken,
yet unable to resist. Then his recoil, his disgust with
himself, his remorse for the way he was treating his wife
and child and his sudden decision to end it alll The
honorable way out.
can tell you, it was a most moving performance; Depleach's voice brought tears to your eyes. You saw
the poor wretch torn by his passions and his
essential decency. The effect was terrific.
Only-whenough it was all over-and the
Murder In Retrospect 21
spell was broken, you couldn't quite square that mythical
figure with Amyas Crale.
"Everybody knew too much about Crale. He
wasn't at all that kind of man. And Depleach
hadn't been able to get hold of any evidence to show
that he was. I should say Crale came as near as
possible to being a man without even a rudimentary
conscience. He was a ruthless, selfish, good-tempered, happy egoist. Any ethics he had
would have applied to painting. He wouldn't, I'm
convinced, have. painted a sloppy, bad picture-no
matter what the inducement. But for the rest, he was a
and he loved life--he had a zest for it.
Suicide? Not her" "Not, perhaps, a very good defense
to have chosen?" Fogg shrugged his thin shoulders. "What
else was there?" he said. "Couldn't sit back and
plead that there was no case for the jury--that the
prosecution had got to prove their case agalnst the
accused. There was a great deal too much proof.
She'd handled the poison-admitted pinching it, in
fact. There were means, motive,
"One might have attem, pted to show that these things were
Fogg said bluntly, "She admitted most of them.
And in any case, it's too farfetched. You're
implying, I presume, that somebody else murdered
him and fixed it up to look as though she had done
"You think that quite untenable?"
"I'm afraid I do," Fogg said slowly.
"You're suggesting the mysterious X. Where do we
look for him?" Poirot said, "Obviously in a close circle.
There were five people--were there not?--who
have been concerned."
"Five? Let me see. There was the old duffer who
messed about with his herb brewing. A dangerous hobby
--but an amiable creature. Vague sort of
person. Don t see him as X. There was the
girl-she might have polished off Caroline, but
certainly not Amyas. Then there was the stockbroker-Crale's best friend. That's popular in
22 Murder In Retmpect stories, but I
don't believe in it in real life. There's no one
else--oh, yes, the kid sister, but one doesn't
seriously consider her. That's four."
Hercule Poirot said, "You forget the governess."
"Yes, that's true. Wretched people, governesses, one
never does remember them. I do remember her
dimly though. Middle-aged, plain, competent. I
suppose a psychologist would say that she had a
guilty passion for ,Crale and therefore kilffed him.
The repressed spinsterl It s no good-I just don
t believe it. As far as my dim remem.
brance goes she wasn't the neurotic type." "It is a long time ago."
"Fifteen or sixteen years, I suppose.
Yes, quite that. You can't expect my memories of the
case to be very acute."
Hercule Poirot said, "But on the contrary, you
remem. bet it amazingly well. That astounds me.
You can see it, can you not? When you talk, the picture
is there befor your eyes."
"Yes, you're right," Fogg said slowly. "I do
see it-quit1 plainly."
Poirot said, "It would interest me very much if ym
would teffleft-brace me
Why? Fogg considered the question. His thin, inte bar
lectual face was alert and interested. "Yes, now,
do you see so plainly? The witness es? The
counsel? The judge? The accused standing in they
Fogg said quietly., "That's the reason, of
courser You'v, put your finger on it. I shall always
Funny thin, romance. She had the quali of it. I don t know if she w, really beautiful. She
wasn t very young-tired-looking- circles under her
eyes. But it all centered round her. This interest, the
drama. And yet, half the time,
she WaShall there.
She d gone away somewhere, quite far away-jut left
her body there, quiescent, attentive, with the
litt] polite smile on her lips. She was
all half-tones--you know lights and shades. And
yet, with it all, she was more all than the other-that
girl with the perfect body and this
II-BI i I
beautiful face and the crude young strength.
'I I admired Elsa Greer because she had guts,
" she could fight, because she stood up to her
tormentors [J and never quailedt But I
admired Caroline Crale because she didn t
fight, because she retreated into her world of half-lights
and shadows. She was never defeated because she never gave battle."
He paused. "I'm only sure of one thing. She
loved the man she killed. Loved him so much that
half of her died with him."
Mr. Fogg, K.C., paused again and polished his
glasses. "Dear me," he said. "I seem to be
saying some very strange thingsl I was quite a young man at
the time, you know. Just an ambitious youngster. These things
make an impression. But all the same I'm
sure that Caroline Crale was a very remarkable
woman. I shall never forget her. No-I shall never
George Mayhew was cautious and
noncommittal. He remembered the case, of
course, but not at all clearly. His father had
been in charge of the case-he himself had been only
nineteen at the time.
Yes, the case had made a great stir. Because of
Crale's being such a well-known man. His
pictures were very fine comv fine indeed. Two of them
were in the Tare. Not that
M. Poirot would excuse him, but he didn't
see quite what M. Poirot's interest was in the
matter-- Oh, the daughter!
Really? Indeed? Canada? He had always heard it
was New Zealand.
George Mayhew became less rigid. He
A shocking thing in a girl's life. He had the
deepest sympathy for her. Really it would have been
better if she had never learned the truth. Still, it was
no use saying that
She wanted to know? Yes, but what
there to know? There were the reports of the trial, of
course. He himself didn't really know
No, he was afraid there wasn't much doubt as
CraMs being guilty. There was a certain amount of
excuse for her. These artists-difficult people to live
with. With Crale, he understood, it had always been some
woman or other.
And she herself had probably been the possessive
type of woman. Unable to accept facts.
Nowadays she'd simply have divorced him and got
over it. He added cautiously, "Let me see-er-Lady Dittisham, I believe, was the
girl in the case."
Poirot said he believed that that was so.
"The newspapers bring it up from time to time," said
Mayhew. "She's been in the divorce court a
good deal. She's a very rich woman, as I expect
you know. She was married to'that explorer fellow
before Dittisham. She's always more or less m the
public eye. The kind of woman who likes
notoriety, I should imagine."
"Or possibly a hero worshiper," suggested
The dea was upsetting to George Mayhew. He
accepted it dubiously. "Well,
possibly-yes, I suppose that might be
Poirot said, "Had your firm acted for Mrs.
Crale for a long period of years?"
George Mayhew shook his head. "On the
contrary. Johnathan and Johnathan were the Crale
solicitors. Under the circumstances, however, Mr.
Johnathan felt that he could not very well act for
Mrs. Caccale and he arranged with us-with my father-to
take over her case. You would do well, I think,
M. Poirot, to arrange a meeting with old Mr.
Johnathan. He has retired from active work-- he is over seventy-but he knew the Crale
family intimately, and he could tell you far more
than I can. Indeed, I myself can tell you nothing at
all. I was a boy at the time. I don't think I
was even in court."
Poirot rose, and George Mayhew, rising,
too, added, "You might like to have a word with Edmunds,
our managing clerk. He was with the firm then and took
a great interest in the case."
EDMUNDS WAS A MAN Of slow speech. His
eyes gleamed with legal caution. He took his time
in sizing up Poirot'before he let himself be
betrayed into speech. Heeasd, "Aye, I
mind the Crale case. He added severely, It was
a disgraceful business."
His shrewd eyes rested appraisingly on Hercule
Poirot. He said, "It's a long time since to be
raking things up again."
"A court verdict is not always an ending."
Edmunds's square head nodded slowly. "I'd not
say that you weren't in the right of it there."
Hercule Poirot went on. "Mrs. Crale
left a daughter."
"Aye, I mind there was a child. Sent abroad
to relatives, was she not?" "That daughter believes firmly in her mother's
The bushy eyebrows of Mr. Edmunds rose.
"That's the way of it, is it?"
Poirot asked, "Is there anything you can tell me
to support that belief?"
Edmunds reflected. Then, slowly, he shook his
head. "I could not conscientiously say there was. I
admired Mrs. Crale. Whatever else she was,
she was a ladyl Not like the other. A hussy--no more,
no less. Bold as brassl Jumped-up trash-,t's what
was-and showed it! Mrs. Crale was quality.
"But none the less a murderess?"
Edmunds frowned. He said, with more spontaneity
than he had yet shown, "That's what I used to ask
myself, day after day. Sitting there in the dock so calm
and gentle. "I'll not believe it," I used
to say to myself. But, if you take my meaning, Mr.
Poirot, there wasn't anything else to
believe. That hemlock didn't get into Mr.
Crale's beer by accident. It was put there. And if
Mrs. Crale didn't put it there, who did?"
AT-HIAT ttheshqruesdgld eSysd
sPedglcrd'Whfdiead?"" "So that's your idea?" said Mr. Edmunds.
"What do you think yourself?"
There was a pause before the other answered. Then he
said, "There was nothing that pointed that way-nothing at
Poirot said, "You were in court during the hearing of the
"You heard the witnesses give evidence?"
"Did anything strike you about them--any
abnormality, and insincerity?"
"Was one of them lying, do you mean?" Edmunds said
bluntly. "Had one of them a reason to wish Mr.
Crale dead? If you'll excuse me, Mr.
Poirot, that's a very
"At least consider it," Poirot urged.
He watched the shrewd face, the screwed-up,
thoughtful eyes. Slowly, regretfully, Edmunds
shook his head.
"That Miss Greer," he said, "she was bitter
and vindictivel I'd say she overstepped the mark in
a good deal she said, but it was Mr. Crale alive
she wanted. He was no use to her dead. She
wanted Mrs. Crale hanged, all right --but that was
because death had snatched her man away from her. Like a
balked tigress she wasl But, as I say, it was
Mr. Crale alive she d wanted. Mr.
was against Mrs. Crale, too. Prejudiced.
Got his knife into her whenever he could. But I d
say heeawas honest according to his lights. He
d been Mr. Crale s great friend. His brother,
Mr. Meredith Blake, a bad witness he
was-vague, hesitating, never seemed sure of his
"I've seen many witnesses like that. Look as though
they're lying when all the time they're telling the
Murder In Retrospect 27 Didn't want
to say anything more than he could help, Mr. Meredith
Blake didn't. Counsel got all the more out of
him on that account. One of those quiet gentlemen who
get easily flustered. The governess, now, she
stood up well to them. Didn't waste words and
answered pat and to the point. You couldn t have told, listening to her, which side she was on. Got all her
wits about her, she had. The brisk kind." He
paused. "Knew a lot more than she ever let on
about the whole thing, I shouldn't wonder."
"I, too, should not wonder," said Hercule
He looked sharply at the wrinkled, shrewd face
of Mr. Alfred Edmunds. It was quite bland and
impassive. But Hercule Poirot wondered if
he had been vouchsafed a hint.
Mr. Caleb Johnathan lived in
Essex. After a courteous exchange of letters,
Hercule Poirot received an invitation, almost
royal in its character, to dine and sleep. The old
gentleman was decidedly a character. After the insipidity
of young George Mayhew, Mr. Johnathan was like
a glass of his own vintage port.
He had his own methods of approach to a subject,
and it was not until well on toward midnight, when
sipping a glass of fragrant old brandy, that
Mr. Johnathan really unbent. In Oriental
fashion he had appreciated Hercule
Poirot's courteous refusal to rush him in any
way. Now, in his own good time, he was willing
to elaborate the theme of the Crale family. "Our firm, of course, has known many generations of the
Crales. I knew Amyas Crale and his father,
Richard Crale, and I can remember Enoch
Crale-the grandfather. Country squires, all of
them, thought more of horses than human befngs. They
rode straight, liked women, and had no truck with
ideas. They distrusted ideas. But Richard
Crale's wife was cram full of ideas--more ideas
than sense. She was poetical and musical-she
played the harp, you know. She enjoyed poor health and
looked very picturesque on her sofa. She
was an admirer of Kingsley That's why she called
her son Amyas. His father scoffed
at the name--but he gave in.
"Amyas Crale profited by this mixed inheritance.
He got his artistic trend from his weakly mother, and his
driving power and ruthless egoism from his father. All the
Crales were egoists. They never by any chance saw
any point of view but their own."
Tapping with a delicate finger on the arm of his chair,
the old man shot a shrewd glance at Poirot.
"Correct me if I am wrong, M. Poirot,
but I think you are interested in comcharacter, shall we say?"
"That, to me," Poirot replied,
the principal interest of ,all my cases." I can conceive of it. To get under the skin, as it were, of
your criminal. How interestingl How absorbingl Our
firm, of course, has never had a criminal
practice. We should not have been competent to act for
Mrs. Crale, even if taste had allowed.
Mayhews, however, were a very adequate firm. They
briefed Depleach--they didn't, perhaps, show much
imagination there-still, he was very expensive, and, of
course, exceedingly dramaticl What they hadn t
the wits to see was that Caroline would never
play up in the way he wanted her to. She
wasn't a very dramatic woman."
"What was she?" asked Poirot. "It is that that I
am chiefly anxious to know."
"Yes, yes--of course. How did she come to do
what she did? That is the really vital question. I
knew her, you know, before she married. Caroline
Spalding, she was. A turbulent, unhappy
creature. Very alive. Her mother was left a widow
early in life and Caroline was devoted to her mother.
Then the mother married again--there was another child. Yes-yes, very sad, very painful. These young,
ardent, adolescent jealousies."
"She was jealous?"
"Passionately so. There was a regrettable incident. Poor child, she blamed herself bitterly
afterward. But you know, M. Poirot, these things happen.
There is an inability to put on the brakes. It
comes--it comes with maturity."
"But what really happened?" asked Poirot.
"She struck the child--the baby-flung a paperweight
at her. The child lost the sight of one eye and was
Mr. Johnathan sighed. He said, "You can
imagine the effect a simple question on that
point had at the trial." He sh ook his head.
"It gave the impression that Caroline Crale as a
woman of ungovernable temper. That was not true.
o, that was not true."
He paused and then resumed. "Caroline Spalding
came of ten to stay at Alderbury. She rode
well, and was keen. R ichard Crale was fond of
her. She waited on Mrs. Crale an d was
deft and gentle--Mrs. Crale also liked her.
The gi rl was not happy at home. She was happy
at Alderbury. iana Carale, Amyas's
sister, and she were by way of being fri ends. Philip
and Meredith Blake, boys from the adjoin- Lg
estate, were frequently at Alderbury. Philip
was always nasty, money-grubbing little brute. I must
confess I have al ways had a distaste for him. But I am told that he tells very good a story and that he
has the reputation of being a stanch friend.
"Meredith was what my contemporaries used to call
na mby-pamby. Liked botany and butterflies
and observing bi rds and beasts. Nature study, they
call it nowadays. Ah, disar--all the young people were a
disappointment to their pa rents. None of them ran
true to type--huntin', shootin', him "dis
Meredith preferred watching birds and
animals to Lootin" or huntin' them. Philip
definitely preferred town
,. country and went into the business of moneymaking.
lana married a fellow who wasn't a gentleman
--one of this e temporary officers in the war. And
Amyas, strong, handsome, virile Amyas,
blossomed inffbeing a painter, of all thi ngs in the
world. It's my opinion that Richard Crale led of the
"And in due course Amyas married Caroline
Spalding. T hey'd always fought and sparred, but it
was a love match, all right. They were both crazy
about each other. And they con tinued to care. But
Amyas was like all the Crales, a
ruthless egoist. He loved Caroline but he never
once considered her in any way. He did as he pleased. It's my opinion that he was as fond of her
as he could be of any- body-but she came a long
way behind his art. That came first. And I should say at
no ume did his art give place to a woman.
"He had affairs with women--they stimulated him-but
he left them high and dry when he'd finished with them.
He wasn't a sentimental man, nor a
romantic one. And he wasn't entirely a
sensualist, either. The only woman he cared
a button for was his own wife. And because she knew that,
she put up with a lot. He was a very fine painter, you
know. She realized that, and respected it. He chased
off on his amorous pursuits and came back again-usually with a picture to show for it.
"It might have gone on like that if it hadn't come to
Elsa Greer. Elsa Greer--was Mr.
Johnathan shook his head. Poirot said, "What
of Elsa Greer?"
"She was, I believe, a crude young woman-with a
crude outlook on life. Not, I think, an
interesting character. "Rose-white youth, passionate,
pale, etc." Take that away and what remains?
Only a somewhat mediocre young woman seeking for
another life-sized hero to put on an empty
Poirot said, "If Amyas Crale had not been a famous painter-was
Mr. Johnathan agreed quickly. "Quite-quite. You have
taken the point admirably. The Elsas of this world
are hero worshipers. A man must have
somebody. Caroline Crale, now, could have
recognized quality in a bank clerk or an
insurance agentl Caroline loved Amyas Crale
the man, not Amyas Crale the painter. Caroline
Crale was not crude--Elsa Greer was." He
added, "But she was young and beautiful and to my mind
Ex-Superintendent Hale pulled thoughtfully at his
pipe. He said, "This is a funny fancy of
yours; M. Poirot."
Murder In Retrospect 31 "It is, perhaps, a
little unusual," Poirot agreed cautious.
"You see," said Hale, "it's all such a long time
ago." Hercule Poirot foresaw that he was going
to, geta little tired of that particular phrase. He
said mildly, That adds toeathe difficulty, of course.
"Raking up the past," mused the other. "If there were
in it, now-was
"There is an object."
"What is it?"
"'One can enjoy the pursuit of truth for its
own sake. I do. And you must not forget the young
Hale nodded. "Yes, I see
side of it. But--you'Us excuse me, M.
Poirot--you're an ingenious man. You could cook
her up a tale."
Poirot replied, "You do not know the young lady."
"Oh, come, now-a man of your experiencel"
Poirot drew himself up. "I may be,
an artistic and competent liar-you seem to think so. But
it is not my idea of ethical conduct. I have my
"Sorry, M. Poirot. I didn't mean
to hurt your feelings.
But it would be all in a good cause, so to speak."
"Oh, I wonder, would it really?"
Hale said slowly, "It's tough luck on a
happy, innocent girl who's just going to get married
to find that her mother was a murderess. If I were you
I'd go to her and say that, after all, suicide was
what it was. Say the case was mishandled
by Depleach. Say that there's no doubt in
mind that Crale killed himself."
"But there is every doubt in my mindl I do not believe
for one minute that Crale killed himself. Do you
it even reasonably possible yourself?"
Slowly Hale shook his head.
"You see? No, it is the truth I must have--not a
plausible or not very plausible lie."
Hale turned and looked at Poirot. He said,
"You talk about the
I'd like to make it plain to you that we think we
the truth in the Crale case."
"That pronouncement from you means a great deal,"
Poirot said quickly. "I know you for what you are-an
honest and capable man. Now tell me this, was there no doubt at any time in your mind as to the guilt of
Mrs. Crale?" The superintendent's answer
doubt at all, M. Poirot. The circumstances
pointed to her straight away, and every single fact that
we uncovered supported that view." "You can
give me an outline of the evidence against her?" "I
can. When I received your letter I looked up the
case." He picked up a small notebook.
"I've jotted down all the salient facts here."
"Thank you, my friend. I am all eagerness to hear."
Hale cleared his throat. A slight official
intonation made itself heard in his voice. He said,
"At two forty-five on the afternoon of September
eighteenth, Inspector Conway was rung up
by Doctor Andrew Faussett. Doctor
Faussett stated that Mr. Amyas Crale of
Alderbury had died suddenly and that in consequence of the
circumstances of that death and also of a statement made
to him by a Mr. Blake, a guest staying in the
house, he considered that it was a case for the police.
"Inspector Conway, in company with a sergeant and the
police surgeon, came over to Alderbury
straight away. Doc tot Faussett was there and
took him to where the body oJust Mr. Crale had not been disturbed. "Mr. Crale had been painting in
a small enclosed garden, known as the Battery
Garden, from the fact that it overlooked the sea, and had
some miniature cannon placements in
embattlements. It was situated at about four
minutes walk from the house. Mr. Crale
had not come up to the house for lunch, as he wanted
to get certain effects of light on the stone-and the sun
would have been wrong for this. later. He had therefore
remained alone in the Batter Garden painting. This was
stated not to be an unusual occurrence. Mr.
Crale took very little notice of mealtime.
icc'ill Sometimes a sandwich would be sent down to him,
be" more often he preferred to remain undisturbed.
"The last people to see him alive were Miss Elsa
Greer (staying in the house) and Mr. Meredith
Blake (a near
neighbor). These two went up together to the house and
i went with the rest of the household in to lunch. After
lunch, coffee was served on the terrace. Mrs.
Crale finished drinking her coffee and then observed
that she would "go down and see how Amyas was getting
on." Miss Cecilia
Williams, governess, got up and accompanied her. She was I looking for a pull-over belonging to her
pupil, Miss Angela
"Warren, sisterof Mrs. Crale, which the latter
had mislaid, and she thought it possible it might have
been left down on the beach.
"These two started off together. The path led
downward, through some woods until it emerged at the
door leading into the Battery Garden. You could either go
into the Battery Garden or you could continue on the
same path which led down to the seashore.
"Miss Williams continued on down, and Mrs.
went into the Battery Garden. Almost at once,
however, Mrs. Crale screamed, and Miss
Williams hurried back. Mr. Crale was
reclining on a seat and he was dead.
"At Mrs. Crale's urgent request Miss
Williams left the Battery Garden and hurried
up to the house to telephone for a doctor. On her
way, however, she met Mr. Meredith Blake and
entrusted her errand to him, herself returning to Mrs.
Crale, who she felt might be in need of someone.
Doctor Faussett arrived on the scene a
quarter of an hour later. He saw at once that
Mr. Crale had been dead for some time--he placed
the probable time of death at between one and two o'clock. There was nothing to show what had caused death. There was
no sign of any wound and Mr. Crale's
attitude was a perfectly natural one.
Nevertheless, Doctor Faussett, who was well
" 1 was his
Mr. Crale s state of health, and who knew
there was no disease or weakness of any kind, was inclined
to take a grave view of the situation. It was at this
34 Murder In Retrospect that Mr. Philip
Blake made a certain statement to Doctor
Inspector Hale paused, drew a deep breath,
and passed, as it were,
Two. Subsequently Mr. Blake repeated this
statement to Inspector Conway. It was to this effect:
He had that morning received a telephone message from
his brother, Mr. Meredith Blake (who lived at
Hand-cross Manor, a mile and a half away).
Mr. Meredith Blake was an amateur chemist-or
perhaps herbalist would describe it best. On entering his laboratory that morning, Mr. Meredith Blake
had been startled to note that a bottle containing a
distillation of hemlock, which had been quite full the day
before, was now nearly empty.
"Worried and alarmed by this fact he had
rung up his brother to ask his advice as to what he
should do about it. Mr. Philip Blake had urged his
brother to come over to Alderbury at once and they would
talk the matter over. He himself walked part way
to meet his brother and they had come up to the house together.
They had come to no decision as to what course to adopt
and had left the matter in order to consult again after
As a result of further inquiries, Inspector
Conway ascertained the following facts: On the
preceding afternoon, five people had walked over from
Alderbury to tea at Handcross Manor. There were
Mr, and Mrs. Crale, Miss Angela
Warren, Miss Elsa Greer, and Mr. Philip
Blake. During the time spent there, Mr. Meredith
Blake had given quite a dissertation on his hobby and had
taken the party into his little laboratory and shown them
around. In the course of this tour, he had mentioned
certain specific drugs-one of which was coniine, the
active principle of the spotted hemlock. He
had explained its properties, had lamented the fact that it had now disappeared from the pharmacopoeia and
boasted that he had known small doses of it to be very
efficacious in whooping cough and asthma. Later he
had mentioned its lethal properties and had
actually read to his guests some passage from a
Greek author describing its effects."
"Mrs. Crale opened the beer, poured it out, and
put the glass into her husband's hand as he was standing
before the easel. He tossed it off in one draught-a
habit of his, I learned. Then he made a
grimace, set down the glass on the table, and said,
'Everything tastes foul to me tdl" Miss Greer,
upon that, laughed and said, "Liverl" Mr.
Crale said, "Well, at any rate it was
"At what time did this take place?" Poirot
"At about a quarter past eleven. Mr. Crale
continued to paint. According to Miss Greer, he later
complained of stiffness in the limbs and grumbled that he
must have got a touch of rheumatism. But he was the
type of man who hates to admit to illness of any
kind and he undoubtedly tried not to admit that he was
feeling ill. His irritable demand that he should be left alone and the others go up
to lunch was quite characteristic of the man, I should say."
Crale was left alone in the Battery
Garden. No doubt he dropped down on the seat and
relaxed as soon as he was alone. Muscular
then set in. No help was at hand, and death
supervened." Again Poirot nodded.
Hale said, "Well, I proceeded according to routine.
There wasn't much difficulty in getting down to the
facts. On the preceding day there had been a
set-to between Mrs. Crale and Miss Greer. The
latter had pretty insolently described some
change in the arrangement of the furniture "when I
am living here." Mrs. Crale took her up and
said, "What do you mean? When you are to to ving
here/miss Greer replied, "Don't pretend you
don t know what I mean, Caroline. You're just like
an ostrich that buries its head in the sand. You know
perfectly well that Amyas and I care for each
other and are going to be married." Mrs. Crale
said, "I know nothing of the kind." Miss Greer
then said, "Well, you know it now." Whereupon, it seems, Mrs. Crale turned to her husband, who
had just come into the room, and said, "Is it true,
Amyas, that you are going to marry Elsa?""
Poirot said with interest, "And what did Mr.
Crale say to that?"
"Apparently he turned, on Miss Greer and
shouted at her, 'What the devil do you mean
by blurting that out? Haven't you got the sense to hold
"Miss Greer said, "I think Caroline ought
to recognize the truth."
"Mrs. Crale said to her husband, "Is it
"He wouldn't look at her, it seems, turned his
face away and mumbled something.
"She said, "Speak out. I've got to know."
Whereupon he said, "Oh, it's true enough-but I
don't want to discuss it
"Then he flounced out of the room again, and Miss
Greer said, "You seel" and went on with something about
its being no good for Mrs. Crale to adopt a
dog-in-the- manger attitude about it. They must
all behave like rational people. She herself hoped that
Caroline and Amyas I would always remain good friends."
I "And what did Mrs. Crale say to that?"
iffi curiously. :,: "Accordin to the witnesses
she laughed. She said, 'Over
to imy, dead body, Elsa.
She went to the door, and Miss Greer called after
her, 'What do you mean?"
"Mrs. Crale looked back and said, "I'll
kill Amyas before
I give him up to
"Yes." Poirot seemed thoughtful. "Who
overheard this scene?"
"Miss Williams was in the room, and Philip
Blake. Very awkward for them."
"Their accounts of the scene agree?"
"Near enough--you never get two witnesses to remem.
her a thing exactly alike.
know that as well as I do, M. Poirot."
Poirot nodded. He said thoughtfully, "Yes, it will
be interesting to see--" He stopped with the sentence un.
finished. i, Hale went on. "I instituted a search of the house. In conicciff"Irs. Crale's
bedroom I found in a bottom drawer,
tucked way underneath some winter stockings, a small
bottle iabeled jasmine scent. It was empty.
I fingerprinted it. the only prints on it were those of
Mrs. Crale. On analysis conx was found
to contain faint traces of oil of jasmine and a
,treaong solution of coniine. i I cautioned
Mrs. Crale and showed her the bottle. She
plied readily. She had, she said, been in a very
After listening to Mr. Meredith Blake s
deffcription of the drug she had slipped back to the
laborao ory, had emptied out a bottle of
jasmine scent which was i. her bag, and had filled the
bottle up with coniine soleau: ion. I asked
her why she had done this and she said, I o
left-brace o a't want to speak of certain things
more than I can help, It I had received a had
shock. My husband was proposing
to leave me for another woman. If that was so, I
want to live. That is why I took it."" Hale paused.
Poirot said, "After all, it is likely
"Perhaps, M. Poirot. But it doesn't square with
what she was overheard to say. And then there was a
further scene on the following morning. Mr.
Philip Blake overheard a port'ion of it:
Miss Greer overheard a different portion of it.
It took place in the library between Mr. and Mrs.
Crale. Mr. Blake was in the hall and caught a
fragment or two. Miss Greer was sitting
outside near the open library window and heard a good deal more."
"And what did they hear?"
"Mr. Blake heard Mrs. Crale say, "You
and your women.
I'd like to kill you. Some day I will kill you.""
"No mention of suicide?"
"Exactly. None at all. No words like "If
you do this thing, I'll kill myself." Miss
Greer's evidence was much the same. According to her,
Mr. Cxale said, "Do try and be reasonable about
this, Caroline. I'm fond of you and will always wish you
well-you and the child. But I'm going to marry Elsa.
We've always agreed to leave each other free."
Mrs. Crale answered to that, "Very well, don't, say 1 haven't warned you." He
said, "What do you mean? And she said, 'I mean that
I love you and I'm not going to lose you. I d rather
kdl you than let you go to that gtr.
Poirot made a slight gesture. "It occurs
to me," he murmured, "that Miss Greer was
singularly unwise to raise this issue. Mrs.
Crale could easily have refused her husband a
,, was was was ai
We had some ewdence bearing on that point, s d
Hale. "Mrs. Cxale, it seems, confided
partly, in Mr. Mere- dith Blake. He was an
old and trusted friend. He was very distressed and managed
to get a word with Mr. Crale about it. This, I may
say, was on the preceding afternoon. Mr. Blake
remonstrated delicately with his friend, said how
distressed he would be if the marriage between Mr. and
Mrs. Crale was to break up so disastrously. He
Murd In Retrospect 39
the point that Miss Greer was a very young girl and that
I it was a very serious thing to drag a young girl through
the divorce court. To this Mr. Crale replied,
with a chuckle (callous sort of brute he must have been), 'That isn't Elsa's idea at
isn't going to appear. We shall fix it up in the
"Therefore," Poirot said, "even more imprudent of
Miss Greer to have broken out the way she did."
Superintendent Hale said, "Oh, you know what
women arel Have to get at one another's throats.
It must have been a difficult situation anyhow. I
can't understand Mr. Crale allowing it to happen. According
to Mr. Meredith Blake he wanted to finish his
picture. Does that make sense to you?"
"Yes, my friend, I think it does."
"It doesn't to me. The man was asking for troubleI"
"He was probably seriously annoyed with his young
woman for breaking out the way she did."
"Oh, he was. Meredith Blake said so. If he
had to finish the picture I don't see why he
couldn't have taken some photographs and worked from them.
I know a chap-does water colors of places-he does that."
Poirot shook his head. "No--I can understand
Crale the artist. You must realize, my friend, that at
that moment, probably, his picture was all that
mattered to Crale. However much he wanted to marry the girl, the picture came ,first. That's
why he hoped to get through her visit without its coming
to an open issue. The girl, of course, didn't
see it that way. With women, love always comes first."
"Don't I know it," said Superintendent Hale with
"Men," continued Poirot, "and especially artists,
"Artl" said the superintendent with scorn. "All this
understood it and I never shalll You should have seen that
picture Crale was painting.
All lopsided. He'd made the girl look as
though she had toothache and the battlements were all
pleasant-looking, the whole thing. I couldn't get it
out of my mind for a long time afterward. I even dreamed
about it. And, what's more, it affected my
eyesight-I began to see battlements and walls and
things all out of drawing. Yes, and women, tool" Poirot smiled. He said, "Although you do not
know it, you are paying a tribute to the greatness of
Amyas Crale's art." "Nonsense. Why can't
a painter paint something nice and cheerful to look at?
Why go out of your way to look for ugliness?" "Some of
see beauty in curious places." "The girl was a
good-looker, all right," said Hale. "Lots of
make-up and next to no clothes on. It isn't
decent the way these girls go about. And that was sixteen
years ago, mind you. Nowadays one wouldn't think
anything of it. But then--well, it shocked me.
Trousers and one of those sport shirts, open at the
neck-and not another thing, I should sayl" "You seem
to remember these points very well," murmured
Poirot slyly. Superintendent Hale blushed.
"I'm just passing on the
impression I got," he said austerely. "So
Quite-quite," said Poirot soothingly. He went on.
it would seem that the principal witnesses against Mrs.
Crale were Philip Blake and Elsa Greer?"
Yes. Vehement, they were, both of them. But the
governess was called by the prosecution, too, and what
she said carried more weight than the other two.
She was on Mrs. Crale s side entirely, you see. Up in arms for her. But she was an honest
woman and gave her evidence truthdg
fully, without trying to minimize it in any way."
"And Meredith Blake?"
"He was very distressed by the whole thing, poor.
gentleman. As well he might bel Blamed himself
for his drug brewing--and the chief constable blamed him for
it, too. Coniine, I understand, was in Schedule I
of the Poise; Act. He was a friend of both parties,
and it hit him we: :
hard-besides being the kind of country gentleman who
shrinks from notoriety and being in the public eye."
"Did not Mrs. Crale's young sister give
evidence?" "No. It wasn't necessary. She wasn't
there when Mrs. Crale threatened her husband, and there
was nothing she could tell us that we couldn't get from
someone else equally well. She saw Mrs.
Crale go to the refrigerator and get the iced beer
out and, of course, the defense could have subpoenaed her
to say that Mrs. Crale took it straight down
without tampering with it in any way. But that point wasn
t relevant because we never claimed that the coniine
was in the beer bottle."
"How did she manage to put it in the
glass with those two looking on?" "@cste11, first of all, they weren t looking on.
That is to say, Mr. Crale was painting-looking at
his canvas and at the sitter. And Miss (bereelwas posed, sitting with her back almost to where Mrs.
Crale was standing and her eyes
looking over Mr. Crale's shoulder."
"As I say, neither of the two was looking at Mrs.
Crale. She had the stuff in one of those pipette
things-one used to fill fountain pens with them. We found
it crushed to splinters on the path up to the house."
"You have an answer to everything," Poirot murmured.
"Well, come, now, M. Poirotl Without
threatens to kill him.
takes the stuff from the labora. tory. The empty
bottle is found in her room and
nobody has handled z't but her.
She deliberately takes down iced beer to him-a
funny thing, anyway, when you realize that they weren't
on speaking terms--was
very curious thing. I had already remarked on iLike"
'allyes. Bit of a giveaway. Why was
she so amiable all of a sudden? He complains of the
taste of the stuff-and coniine has a nasty taste.
She arranges to find the body and sends the other
woman off to telephone. Why? So that she can Wipe
that bottle and glass and then press
fingers on it. After that she can pipe up and say that it
was remorse and
thathe itted ,uicide. A l ely sto you."
was certainly not very well imagined."
"No. If you ask me, she didn't take the
She was so eaten up with hate and jealousy. All she
thought of was doing him in. And then, when it s over,
when she sees him there dead-well,
I should say, she suddenly comes to herself and realizes
that what she's done is murder-and that you get hanged
for murder. And desperately she goes bald-headed
for the only thing she can think of-- which is
Poirot said, "It is very sound ,what you say there-- yes. Her mind mightwork that way.
'In a way it was a premeditated crime and in a
way it wasn't," said Superintendent Hale. "I
don't believe she really thought it out, you know. Just
went on with it blindly."
Poirot murmured, "I wonder."
ixo at Poirot curiously.
"Have I convinced you that it was a straightforward
"Almost. Not quite. There are one or two peculiar
"Can you suggest an alternative solution that will
Poirot said, 'ationhat were the movements of the other people
on that morning?"
went into them, I can assure you. We checked up
on everybody. Nobody had what you could call an
alibi-- you can't have with poisoning. Why, there's
nothing to prevent a would-be murderer from handing his
victim some poison in a ('psule the day before,
telling him it s a specific cure for indigestion
and he must take it just before Istinch-and then going
away to the other end of England."
But you don't think that happened in this case?"
"Mr. Crale didn't suffer from indigestion. And in any
case I can't see that kind of thing happening. It's
true that Mr. Meredith Blake was given
to recommending quack nostrums of his own concocting,
but I don't see Mr.Crale trying any of them.
And if he did he'd probably talk and joke
about it. Besides, why
Mr. Meredith Blake want to kill Mr.
Crale? Everything goes to show that he was on very good
terms withhim. They all were.
Philip Blake was his best friend. Miss Greer was
love with him. Miss Williams disapproved of
him, I imagine, very strongly-but moral
disapprobation doesn't lead to poisoning Little Miss
Warren scrapped with him a lot, she was at a
tresome age-just off to school, I believe-- but he
was quite fond of her and she of him. She was treated, you
know, with particular tenderness and consid44 Murder In Reupect eration in that
house. You may have heard why. She was badly
injured when she was a child--injured by Mrs. Crale in
a kind of maniacal fit of rage. That rather shows-- doesn't it?--that she was a pretty uncontrolled
sort of person. To go for a child-and maim her for
"It might show," said Poirot, "that Angela
Warren had good reason to bear a grudge against
"Perhaps, but not against Amyas Crale. And,
anyway, Mrs. Crale was devoted to her young
sister--gave her a home when her parents died and,
as I say, treated her with special affection-spoiled her badly, so they say. The girl was
obviously very fond of Mrs. Crale. She was
kept away from the trial and sheltered from it all as
far as possible-- Mrs. Crale was very insistent about
that, I believe. But the child was terribly upset and
longed to be taken to see her sister in prison.
Caroline Crale wouldn't agree. She said that
sort of thing might injure a girl's mentality for
life. She arranged for her to go to school abroad."
He added, "Miss Warren turned out to be a very
distinguished woman. Traveler to weird places.
Lectures at the
Royal Geographical--all that sort of thing."
"And no one remembers the trial?"
"Well, it's a different name for one thing. They
hadn't even the same maiden name. They had the same mother but different fathers. Mrs. Crale's name was
"This Miss Williams, was she the child's governess
or Angela Warren's?"
"Angela's. There was a nurse for the child, but she used
to do a few little lessons with Miss Williams every
day, I believe."
"Where was the child at the time?"
"She'd gone with the nurse to pay a visit to her
godmother. A Lady Tressillian. A widow
lady who'd lost her
own two little girls and who was devoted to this kid."
Hale continued. "As to the movements of the other people on
the day of the murder, I can give them to you. Miss
Greer sat on the terrace near the library window
Murder In Retrospect 45
breakfast. There, as I say, she overheard the
quarrel between Crale and his wife. After that she
accompanied Crale down to the Battery and sat for
him until lunchtime, with a couple of breaks to ease her muscles. 'Philip Blake was in the house
after breakfast and over. heard part of the quarrel. After
Crale and Miss Greer went off, he read the
paper until his brother telephoned him. Thereupon,
he went down to the shore to meet his brother. They
walked together up the path again past the Battery
Garden. Miss Greer had just gone up to the house
to fetch a pull-over, as she felt chilly, and
Mrs. Crale was with her husband discussing
arrangements for Angela's departure to school."
an amicable interview," said Poirot. "Well,
no, not amicable. Crale was fairly shouting at
her, I understand. Annoyed at being bothered with
domestic details. I suppose she wanted
to get things straightened up if there was going to be a
break." Poirot nodded. Hale went on. "The
two brothers exchanged a few words with Amyas
Crale. Then Miss Greer reappeared and took
up her position, and Crale picked up his brush
again, obviously wanting to get rid of them.
They took the hint and went up to the house. It was when
they were at the Battery, by the way, that Amyas
Crale complained that all the beer down there was hot,
and his wife promised to send him down some iced
beer." "Ahal" "Exactly--ahal Sweet as sugar she was about it. They went up to the house and sat
on the terrace outside. Mrs. Crale and
Angela Warren brought them beer out there. "Later,
Angela Warren went down to bathe and Philip
Blake went with her. "Meredith Blake went down
to a clearing with a seat just above the Battery Garden.
He could just see Miss Greer as she posed on the
battlements, and could hear her voice and Crale's
as they talked. He sat there and thought over the
coniine business. He was still very worried about
46 Murder In Retrospect
it and didn't know quite what to do. Elsa Greer saw
him and waved her hand to him. When the bell went for
lunch he came down to the battery, and Elsa
Greer and he went back to the house together. He
noticed then that Crale was looking, as he put it,
very queer, but he didn't really think anything of it
at the time. Crale was the kind of man who is never
ill-and so one didn't imagine he would be. On the
other hand, he
have moods of fury and despondency according as to whether his
painting was not going as he liked it. On those occasions
one left him alone and said as little as possible to him.
That's what these two did on this occasion. "As to the others, the servants were busy with housework and
cooking lunch. Miss Williams was in the
schoolroom part of the morning, correcting some
exercise books. Afterward, she took some household
mending to the terrace. Angela Warren spent most
of the morning wandering about the garden, climbing trees and
eating things-- you know what a girl of fifteen is-plums, sour apples, hard pears, etc. After that
she came back to the house and, as I say, went
down with Philip Blake to the beach and had a swim
Superintendent Hale paused. "Now, then," he
"do you find anything phony about that?" "Nothing at
all," Poirot said. -- -- "Well, thenl"
The two words expressed volumes.
"But all the same," said Hercule Poirot, "I
am going to satisfy myself. I--was
"What are you going to do?"
"I am going to visit these five people-and from
each one I am going to get his or her own story."
Superintendent Hale sighed with a deep
melancholy. He said, "Man, you're nutsl
None of their stories are going to agree. Don't you
grasp that elementary fact? No two people remember
a thing in the same order anyway. And after all this timel Why, you'll hear five accounts of five
"That," said Poirot, "is what I am counting upon.
It will be very instructive."
Philip Blake was recognizably like the
description given of him by Depleach--a
prosperous, shrewd, jovial-looking
man-slightly running to fat.
Hercule Poirot had timed his appointment for half
past six on a Saturday afternoon. Philip
Blake had just finished his eighteen holes, and he
had been on his game-winning a fiver from his
opponent. He was in the mood to be friendly and
Hercule Poirot explained himself and his errand. On
this occasion at least, he showed no undue passion for
unsullied truth. It was a question, Blake gathered,
of a series of books dealing with famous crimes.
Philin Blake frowned. He said, "Why
rake up these conthings?caret Hercule Poirot
shrugged his shoulders. He was at his ost foreign today.
He was out to be despised but patron[zed.
is the public," he murmured. "They eat it up
--'es, eat it up." "Ghouls," said Philip Blake. But he said it
good-hu-,i! aoredly-not with the fastidiousness and the
more sensitive man might have displayed.
Hercule Poirot said with a shrug of the shoulders,
"It is human nature. You and I, Mr.
Blake, who know the world, have no illusions about our
fellow human beings. Not bad people, most of them, but
certainly not to be idealized."
Blake said heartily, "I've parted with my
illusions long ago."
,ea?Instead",, you, tell a very. good sto,, ry, so
I have. been,, told." Ahl Blake s eyes
twinkled. Heard this one?
Poirot's laugh came at the right place. It was
not an edifying story, but it was funny.
Philip Blake lay back in his chair, his
muscles relaxed, his eyes creased with good
humor. Hercule Poirot thought suddenly that he
looked rather like a contented pig. A
This little pig went to market.
What was he like, this man, this Philip Blake A
man, it would seem, without cares. Prosperous,
contented. No remorseful thoughts, no uneasy twinges of conscience from the past, no haunting
memories here. No, a well-fed pig who had
gone to market-and fetched the full price.
But once, perhaps, there had been more to Philip
Blake. He must have been, when young, a handsome man.
Eyes always a shade too small, a fraction too
near together, per-haps-but otherwise a well-made,
well-set-up young man. How old was he now? At
a guess between fifty and sixty. Nearing forty, then,
at the time of Crale's death. Less stultified,
then, less sunk in the gratifications of the minute.
Asking more of life, perhaps, and receiving less.
Poirot murmured as a mere catch phrase, "You
comprehend my position."
"No, really, you know, I'm hanged if I do."
The stockbroker sat upright again; his glance was once
more shrewd. "Why
You're not a writer."
"Not precisely--no. Actually I am a
The modesty of this remark had probably not been
equaled before in Poirot's conversation.
"Of course you are. We all know that. The famous
Her-cule Poirotl" But his tone held a subtly mocking note.
Intrinsically, Philip Blake was too much of an
Englishman to take the pretensions of a foreigner
seriously. To his cronies he would have said,
"Quaint little mountebank. Oh, well, I
expect his stuff goes down with the women, all right."
And although that derisive, patronizing attitude was
exactly the one which Hercule Poirot had aimed
at inducing, nevertheless he found himself annoyed by it.
This man, this successful man of affairs, was
unimpressed by Hercule Poirotl It was a
"I am gratified," said Poirot untruly, "that
I am so well known to you. My success, let me
tell you, has been founded on the psychology--the
of human behavior. That, M. Blake,
is what interests the world in
crime today. It used to be romance. Famous
crimes were retold from one angle only-the love
story connected with them. Nowadays it is very different.
People read with in. that Doctor Crippen murdered his
wife because she a big, bouncing woman and he was little
and insignificant and therefore she made him feel
inferior. They of some famous woman criminal that she killed be- she'd been snubbed by her father when she
was old. It is, as I say, the
of crime that inter- nowadays." Philip Blake
said, with a slight yawn, "The why of most ts
obvious enough, I should say. Usually money."
"Ah, but, my dear sir," Poirot cried, "the
why must obvious That is the whole pointl" "And that's
come in?" "And that, as you say, is where I come inl
It is proposed rewrite the stories of certain
bygone crimes-from the bele. Psychology in
crime, it is my specialty. were have accepted
commlss on. Philip Blake grinned. "Pretty
lucrative, I suppose?" "I hope so; I
certainly hope so." "Congratulations.
Now, perhaps, you'll tell me where I conome in?"
"Most certainly. The Crale case,
monsieur." 4 Philip Blake did not look
startled. But he looked " ('thoughtful. He said,
"Yes, of course, the Crale case" wereto
Hercule Poirot said anxiously, "It is not
displeasing to : roll, Mr. Blake?"
" "Oh, as to that." Philip Blake shrugged his shoulders.
"It's no use resenting a thing that you've no power
to stop. Fhe trial of Caroline Crale is
public property. Anyone can i o ahead and
write it up. It's no use my objecting. In a
cay-I don't mind telling you-I do dislike it a
good deal. tmyas Crale was one of my best friends.
I'm sorry the
thole unsavory business has to be raked up again.
But conhese things happen."
"You are a philosopher, Mr. Blake."
"No, no. I just know enough not to start kicking against
"I hope, at least, to write with delicacy and good
taste," said Poirot.
Murder In Retrospect 51 again and again? I
I had the chance to save him and I dallied about-waiting for Meredithl Why hadn't I the sense
to realize that Caroline wasn't going to have any
qualms or hesitancies? She'd taken that stuff
to use-- and she'd use it at the very first
opportunity. She wouldn't
Philip Blake gave a loud guffaw but without
any real wait till Meredith discovered his loss.
I knew--of course I usement. "Makes me chuckle to hear you say that." . iffccnew--that
Amyas was in deadly danger and I did notham'I assure you, Mr. Blake, I am really
interested-"ment Is diseaWngl,, of "ust a matter of
money with me. I genumety want to
think you reproach yourself unduly, monsieur. You
n were' ,1 nd see the events that took place,
'iad not much
0ast--to tcx ,
reto see oemncthiswas was rue oov,,.,-S";""
and to visualize the thoughts 1The other interrupted
him. "Time? I had plenty of
feelings of the actors in the drama." ime. Any
amount of courses were open to me. I could and don't
know that there was much subdety about it," to ave gone
to Amyas, as I, say; but there was the chance,
Philip Blake said. "It was a pretty obvious
business. Crude f course, that he wouldn t
believe me. Amyas wasn't the female
jealousy, that was all there w tofft$2]- comment rt
of man who d believe easily in his own danger. He'd was ould interest me enormousty, Mr.
xtaxc, tt x could i to aave scoffed at the
notion. And he never thoroughly unItw ir His
have your own reactmns to me awa . terstood the sort
of devil Caroline was. But I could have Blake
said with sudden heat, his face deepening one to her. I
could have said, "I know what you're up to.
in" PhiliPcolor, "geacttonsl" Keacuou,"
Don't sneakr- so uedanu', was His, know what
you're planning to do. But if Amyas or Elsa
all I didn't inst stand there and reactl You don
t seem lies of coniine poisoning, you'll be
hanged by your neckl"
c you. . -- friend--m friend, I tell you--had
Fhat would have stopped her. Or I might have
to unaerstanu mat ,eaity
been killed-poisonedl And that if I'd acted quicker
I the police. Oh, there were things that could have been could
have saved him." done-and, instead, I let myself be
influenced by Mere- "How do out make that out, Mr.
Blake?", -- .1.- ,-dith's slow, cautious
methodsl "We must be sure--talk it "Like
thisiI take it that you veaeaence aireaeleddaqoUwp
on ttal over--make quite certain who could have taken it--" Old of the case?. Poffrot no.e.d; We
me u He was in fool-never made a quick decision
in his lifel A good morning my brother
lvierect.Xtei brews waallys'missing, and thing for
him he was the eldest son and has an estate to
urettVery good stew. One of ms ,ddment him live
on. If he d ever tried to
money he d have lost
dis% fMrlv deadly hell brew. What alCt
x Lmu . every penny he had."
"dis."'7eaHis--l-nn'g and ffe'd talk it over.
Decide wnat was pest "You had no doubt
yourself who had taken the ooison?"
"to his-by com-[---was'ggecideoe utm. what was
best." It beats me now now olrot" asked his
sitatin fooll I ouglat to nave : ,,
I could have been such a he. g 1-, ,caret i. f
Of course not. I knew at once it must be
realized that there was no time to lose. i ougttu ,,,
out see, I knew Caroline very well." one to Am
as straight away anct warn-cot n tm.ougnt "That is very interesting," Poirot said "I want
ally LA was was was His,
disong com.a ,r-qne's,,,,, ninched one of Mecu,
u, v-,-Mr Blake, what kind of a woman
Caroline Crale was.
nave salu, r ut tot our. was . . ,, ,
oisons, and you and Elsa had better look o ally
Philip Blake said sharply, She wasn t the
dislves, ,, . -- ent that people thought she was at the time
of the triall
strode u and down in his excitement. I
Rlke trot UU. He P -.--, be ,eao o
,-, -,,,-,,"1o yggu sdppose I haven't gone over it
m my Iutteai
50 Murder In Retrmpect the pricks. I
daresay you'll do it less offensively than many
Blake sat down again. He said seriously, "Would you
really like to know?" "I would like to know very much indeed."
"Caroline was a rotter. She was a rotter through and
through. Mind you, she had charm. She had that kind of
sweetness of manner that deceives people utterly. She had
a frail, helpless look about her that appealed to people's
chivalry. Sometimes, when I've read a bit of
hl?stost% I think Mary Queen of Scots must
have been a bit like her. Always sweet and unfortunate
and magnetic--and actually a cold, calculating
woman, a scheming woman who planned the murder of
Darnley and got away with it. I Caroline was like
that--a cold, calculating planner. And i she,
had a wicked temper. " I don t know
whether they've told you-it isn't a vital i
hPoint of the trial, but it shows her up--what she
did to i, er baby sister? She was jealous, you know.
Her mother i:
had married again, and all the notice and affection went
to little Angela. Caroline couldn't stand that. She
tried to kill the baby--smash its head in.
Luckily the blow wasn't
fatal But it was a pretty ghastly thing to do."
"Well, that was the real Caroline. She had to be first. That was the thing she simply could not stand--not being
first. And there was a cold, egotistical devil in
her that was capable of being stirred to murderous lengths."
He paused. "You'll say that I'm bitter--that
I'm unduly prejudiced against Caroline. She
charm--I we felt it. i But I knew--I always
knew--the real woman behind. And that woman, M.
Polrot, was evil. She was cruel and malignant
and a grabberl"
And yet it has been told me that Mrs. Crale
put up with many hard things in her married life."
"Yes, and didn't she let everybody know about it?
Always the martyrl Poor old Amyas. His
married life was one long hell--or rather it would have
been if it hadn't been for his exceptional quality.
His art, you see--he always had that. It was an
escape. When he was painting he
Murder In Retrospect 53 didn't care; he
shook off Caroline and her nagging and all the ceaseless
rows and quarrels. They were endless, you know. Not a
week passed without a thundering row over one thing or
enjoyed it. Having rows stimulated her, I
believe. It was an outlet. She could say all the hard, bitter, stinging things she wanted to say. She'd
positively purr after one of those set-tos-go off
looking as sleek and well-fed as a cat. But it
took it out of
wanted peace, rest, a quiet life. Of course,
a man like that ought never to marry; he isn't cut out for
domesticity. A man like Crale should have affairs but
no binding ties. They're bound to chafe him."
"He confided in you?"
"Well--he knew that I was a pretty devoted
pal. He let
see things. He didn't complain. He
wasn't that kind of man. Sometimes he'd say,
'Damn all women." Or he'd say, "Never
get married, old boy. Wait for hell till after
this life." his
"You knew about his attachment to Miss Greer?"
"Oh, yes-at least I saw it coming on. He
told me he'd met a marvelous girl. She was
different, he said, from anything or anyone he'd ever
met before. Not that I paid much attention to that. Amyas
was always meeting one woman or other who was
"different." Usually, a month later, he'd
stare at you if you mentioned them, and wonder who you were talking abl But this Elsa Greer really was
different. I realized that when I came down
to Alder- bury to stay. She'd got him, you know-hooked him good
and proper. The poor mutt fairly ate out of her
hand." "You did not like Elsa Greer either?"
"No, I didn't like her. She was definitely a
predatory creature. She, too, wanted to own
Crale body and soul. But I think, all the
same, that she'd have been better for him than
Caroline. She might conceivably have let him
alone once she was sure of him. Or she might have
got tired of him and moved on to someone
else. The best thing for Amyas would have been to be quite
free of fe
"But that, it would seem, was not to his taste."
Philip Blake said with a sigh, "The fool was always
gettinghmf involved with some woman or other. And
yet, in a way, women really meant very little to him.
The only two women who really made any
impression on him at all in his life were Caroline
"Was he fond of the child?" Poirot asked.
"Angela? Oh, we all liked Angela. She
was such a sport. She was always game for anything. What a life she led that wretched governess of hersl
Yes, Amyas liked Angela all right; but
sometimes she went too far, and then he used to get
really mad with her, and then Caroline would step
in-Caro was always on Angela's side and that would
finish Amyas altogether. He hated it when Caro sided
with Angela against him. There was a bit of jealousy
all round, you know. Amyas was jealous of the way
Caro always put Angela first and would do anything for
her. And Angela was jealous of Amyas and
rebelled against his overbearing ways."
"In the interests of truth, Mr. Blake,"
Poirot said, "I
am going to ask you to do something."
"What is it?"
"I am goingto beg that you will write me out an
exact account of what happened on those days at
Alderbury. That is to say, I am going to ask you
to write me out a full account of the murder and its
"But, my dear fellow, after all this time? I should be
hopelessly inaccurate." "Not necessarily."
"No, Mr. Blake; for one thing, with the passage of time, the mind retains a hold on essentials and
rejects superficial matters."
iiOh, you mean a mere broad outline?"
Not at all. I mean a detailed, conscientious
" Murder In Retrospect 55 ach event as it
occurred and every conversation you can bar Jremember."
bar by ,And
supposing I remember them wrong?"
[: You can give the wording at least to the best of your
bar conirecollection. There may be gaps, but that cannot helped."
Blake looked at him curiously. "But what's the
idea? The police files will give you the whole thing
far more accurately."
"No, Mr. Blake. We are speaking now from the
psychological point of view. I do not want
facts. I want your own selection of facts.
Time and your memory are responsible for that
selection. There may have been things done, words
spoken, that I should seek for in vain in the police
files. Things and words that you never mentioned because,
maybe, you judged them irrelevant, or because you
preferred not to repeat them. His Blake said sharply, "Is this account of mine for
"Certainly not. It is for my eye only.
To assist me to draw my own deductions."
"And you won't quote from it without my consent?"
"Certainly not." "H'm," said Philip Blake.
"I'm a very busy man, M. Poirot."
"I appreciate that there will be time and trouble
involved.- I should be happy to agree to a-reasonable fee." dg
There was a moment's pause. Then Philip
jsuddenly, "No, if I do it I'll do it for
"And you will do it?"
Philip Blake said warningly, "Remember, I
can't vouch for the accuracy of my memory."
"That is perfectly understood."
"Then I think," said Philip Blake, "that I
to do it. I feel I owe it-in a way--to Amyas
i Hercule Poirot was not a man to neglect
His advance toward Meredith Blake was carefully
Murd In To
thought out. Meredith Blake was, he already felt
sure, a very different proposition from Philip
Blake. Rush tactics would not succeed here. The
assault must be leisurely.
Hercule Poirot knew that there was only one way
to penetrate the stronghold. He must approach
Meredith Blake with the proper credentials.
Those credentials must be social, not professional.
Fortunately, in the course of his career, Hercule
Poirot had made friends in many counties.
Devonshire was no exception. He sat down
to review what resources he had in Devonshire.
As a result he discovered two people who were
acquaintances or friends of Mr. Meredith Blake.
He descended upon him, therefore, armed with two
letters-one from Lady Mary Lytton-Gore, a
gentle widow lady of restricted means, the most
retiring of creatures; and the other from a retired
admiral, whose family had been settled in the
county for four generations.
Meredith Blake received Poirot in a state of some
perplexity. As he had often felt lately, things were not what they
used to be. Dash it all, private detectives
used to be private detectives-fellows you got
to guard wedding presents at country receptions,
fellows you went to, rather shamefacedly, when there was
some dirty business afoot and you had to get the hang
But here was Lady Mary Lytton-Gore writing:
Poirot is a very old and valued friend of
mine. Please do all you can to help him, won t
And Mary Lytton- Gore wasn't--no,
decidedly she wasn't-the sort of woman you
associate with private detectives and all that
they stand for. And Admiral Cronshaw wrote:
Very good chap --absolutely sound. Gratelul q
you will do what you can for him. Most entertaining fellow-can
tell you lots of good stories.
And now here was the man himself. Really a most
impossible person-the wrong clothes, button
boots, an incredible mustachel Not his, Meredith
Blake's, kind of fellow at all. Didn't
look as though he'd ever hunted or shot --or even
played a decent game. A foreigner. Murder In ReU'ospect 57 Slightly
amused, Hercule Poirot read accurately these
houghts.passing through the other's head. He had felt his
own interest rising considerably as the train brought him
into the west country. He would see now, with his
eyes, the actual place where these long-past events
happened. It was here, at Handcross Manor, that
two young broth-had lived and gone over to Alderbury
and joked and tennis and fraternized with a young Amyas
Crale girl called Caroline. It was from
here that Meredith out to Alderbury on that fatal
morning. That had been sixteen years ago.
Hercule Poirot looked with interest at the man
who was confronting him with somewhat uneasy politeness.
Very much what he had expected. Meredith Blake
resembled superficially every other English country
gentle-of straitened means and outdoor tastes.
A shabby old coat of tweed, a weather-beaten,
pleasant, aliddle-aged face with somewhat faded
blue eyes, rather a weak mouth, half hidden by a rather
straggly mustache. Poirot found Meredith Blake
a great contrast to his brother. He had a
hesitating manner; his mental processes were
obviously leisurely. It was as though his tempo
had slowed down with the years just as his brother
Philip's had been accelerated. As Poirot had already guessed, he was a man whom
you could not hurry. The leisurely life of the
English countryside was in his bones.
He looked, the detective thought, a good deal
older than his brother, though, from what Mr.
Johnathan had said, it would seem that only a
couple of years separated them.
Hercule Poirot prided himself on knowing how
to handle an "old-school tie." It was no
moment for trying to seem English. No, one must be a
foreigner--frankly a foreigner--and be
maguanimousffity forgiven for the fact. "Of course,
these foreigners don t quite know the ropes.
shake hands at breakfast. Still, a decent fellow
Poirot set about creating this impression of himself.
The two men talked, cautiously, of Lady Mary
Lytton- Gore and of Admiral Cronshaw.
Other names were mentioned. Fortunately, Poirot
knew someone's cousin and had met somebody else's
sister-in-law. He could see a kind of warmth
dawning in the squire's eyes. The fellow seemed
to know the right people. Gracefully, insidiously,
Poirot slid into the purpose of his visit. He was quick to counteract the inevitable recoil. This book
was, alas, going to be written. Miss Crale
--Miss Lemarchant, as she was now called--was
anxious for him to exercise a judicious
editorship. The facts, unfortunately, were
public property. But much could be done in their
presentation to avoid wounding susceptibilities.
Poirot murmured that before now he had been able
to use discreet influence to avoid certain
sensational passages in a book of memoirs.
Meredith Blake flushed angrily. His hand shook
a little as he filled a pipe. He said, a slight
stammer in his voice, "It's--it's g-ghoulish the
way they dig these things up. S-Sixteen years
ago. Why can't they let it be?" Poirot shrugged
his shoulders. "I agree with you," he said. "But what
will you? There is a demand for such things. And anyone is
at liberty to reconstruct a proved crime and
to comment on it." "Seems disgraceful to me."
Poirot murmured, "Alas, we do not live
in.a delicate age. You would be surprised,
Mr. Blake, if you knew the unpleasant
publications I have succeeded in--shall we say
--softening? I am anxious to do all I can to save
Crale's feeling in the matter." Blake murmured, "Little Carlal That childl A grownup
woman. One can hardly believe it."
know. Time flies swiftly, does it not?" Meredith
Blake sighed. He said, "Too quickly."
Poirot said, "As you will have seen in the letter I handed
you from Miss Crale, she is very anxious to know
everything possible about the sad events of the
Meredith Blake said this a touch of irritation. up
everything again? How much better to let all be
forgotten." "You say that, Mr. Blake, because you know
all the past too well. Miss Crale,
remember, knows nothing. That is to say, she knows
only the story as she has learned it from official
accounts." Meredith Blake winced. He said,
I forgot. Poor childl What a detestable
position for her. The shock of i learning the truth.
And then-those soulless, callous re ports of the
trial." "The truth," said Hercule Poirot,
"can never be done justice to in a mere legal
recital. It is the things that are i left out that are
the things that matter. The emotions, the *i feelings,
the characters of the actors in the drama, the extenuating circumstances--was ii He paused, and the other man
spoke eagerly, like an actor who had received his
cue. "Extenuating drcum. to i stancest That's just
it. H ever there were extenuating cir. I cumstances,
there were in this case. Amyas Crale was an old
friend-his family and mine had been friends for generations, but one has to admit that his conduct was,
frank ly, outraeou He was an artist, of
course, and presumably i that expmins it. But there
it is-he allowed a most extraor.,
,! dlnary set of affmrs to arxse. The posmon was
one that no ordinary decent man could have contemplated
for a iii: moment." Hercule Poirot said, "I
am interested that you should
say that. It had puzzled me-that situation. Not so
does a conequals , well-bred man, a man of the
world, go about his affairs."
Blake's thin, hesitating face had lit up with
animation. He said, "Yes, but the whole point is
that Amyas never was an ordinary manl He was a
painter, you see, and with him painting came first--really,
sometimes, in the most extrao- rdinary wayl I
don't understand these so-called artistic people myself-never
have. I understood Crale a little because, of course,
I'd known him all my life. His people were the same sort as my people. And in many ways Crale
60 lIurdet In
ran true to type--it was only where art came in that
he didn't conform to the usual standards. He
wasn't, you see, an amateur in any way. He
was first class--really first class.
"Some people say he was a genius. They may
be right. But, as a result, he was always what I should
describe as unbalanced. When he was painting a
picture, nothing else mattered, nothing could be
allowed to get in the way. He was like a man in a
dream--completely obsessed by what he was doing.
Not till the canvas was finished did he come out of this
absorption and start to pick up the threads of ordinary
He looked questioningly at Poirot and the latter
"You understand, I see. Well, that explains, I
think, why this particular situation arose. He was in
love with this girl. He wanted to marry her. He was
prepared to leave his wife and child for her. But he d
started painting her down here, and he wanted to finish that
picture. Nothing else mattered to him. He
see anything else. And the fact that the situation was a
peectly impossible one for the two women concerned
didn t seem to have occurred to him."
"Did either of them understand his point of view?" "Oh,
yes-in a way. Elsa did, I suppose. She
was terrifi. cally enthusiastic about his painting. But it
was a difficult position for her-naturally.
And as for Caroline--was
He stopped. Poirot said, "For
MzvvrrHave BmxEvery SA-MORE, speaking with a little
difficulty, "Caroline-I had always--well, I
had always been very fond of Caroline. There was a time
when--when I hoped to marry her. But that was soon
nipped in the bud. Still, I remained, if I may
say so, devotect to--to her service."
Poirot nodded thoughtfully. That slightly
old-fashioned phrase expressed, he felt, the
man before him very typically. Meredith Blake was the
kind of man who would devote himself readily to a
romantic and honorable devotion. He would serve his
lady faithfully and without hope of reward. Yes,
it was all very much in character.
He said, carefully weighing the words, "You must have resented this-attitude-on her behalf?"
"I did. Oh, I did. I-I actually
remonstrated with Crale on the subject."
"When was this?"
"Actually the day before-before it all happened. They
came over to tea here, you know. I got
Crale aside and put it to him. I even said, I
remember, that it wasn't fair to either of them."
"Ah, you said that?"
"Yes. I didn't think, you see, that he
realized." "Possibly not."
"I said to him that it was putting Caroline in a
perfectly unendurable position. If he meant
to marry this girl, he ought not to have her staying in the
house and-- well--more or less flaunt her in
Caroline's face. It was, I said, an
"What did he answer?" Poirot asked
Meredith Blake replied with distaste, "He said,
'Caroline must lump it." his
Hercule Polrot's eyebrows rose. "Not," he
said, "a very
"I thought it abominable. I lost my temper. I said that no doubt, not caring for his wife, he didn't
mind how much he made her suffer, but what, I said,
about the girl? Hadn't be realized it was a pretty
rotten position for he? His reply to that was that Elsa
must lump it, tool
"Then he went on: "You don't seem
to understand, Meredith, that this thing I'm painting is the
best thing I've done. It's
I tell you. And a couple of jealous,
uarreling women aren't going to upset it--no,
by hell, ey're not."
"It was hopeless talking to him. I said he seemed
to have taken leave of all ordinary decency.
Painting, I said, wasn't everything. He
interrupted there. He said, "Ah, but it is to
"I was still very angry. I said it was perfectly
disgraceful the way he had always treated Caroline.
She had had a miserable life with him. He said he
knew that and he was sorry about it. Sorryl He
said, 'I know, Merry, you don't believe that-but
it's the truth. I've given Caroline the hell of a
life and she's been a saint about it. But she did
know, I think, what she might be letting herself in for. I told her candidly the sort of damnable,
egotistical, loose-living kind of chap I
"I put it to him then very strongly that he ought not
to break up his married life. There was the child
to be considered, and everything. I said that I could understand
that a girl like Elsa could bowl a man over, but that
even for her sake he ought to break off the whole thing.
She was very young. She was going into this bald-headed, but
she might regret it bitterly afterward. I said
couldn't he pull himself together, make a clean break,
a0d go back to his wife?"
"And what did he say?"
Blake said, "He just looked-embarrassed. He
patted me on the shoulder and said, "You're a good
chap, Merry. But you're too sentimental. You
wait till the picture's finished and you'll admit
that I was right."
"I said, "Damn. your picture "dis And he
grinned, and said all the neurotic women in England
couldn t do that Then I said that it would have been more
decent to have kept the whole thing from Caroline until
after the picture was finished. He said that that wasn't
fault It was Elsa who had insisted on spilling the beans. I said, "Why?" And he said that she had
had some idea that it wasn't straight otherwise.
She wanted everything to be clear and aboveboard.
Well, of course, in a way, one could understand that and
respect the girl for it. However badly
she was behaving, she did at least want to be honest"
"A lot of additional pain and grief is caused
by honesty," remarked Hercule Poirot. Meredith
Blake looked at him doubtfully. He did not
hquite like the sentiment. He sighed. "It was a-a
most un- aeaeappy time for us alLike" The only
person who does not seem to have been affected by it was
Amyas Crale," said Poirot. "And why? Because
he was a rank egoist. I remember him now.
Grinning at me as he went off saying, "Don't
worry, Merry Everything's going to pan out all rightl
was "The incurable optxmlst, murmured Poirot.
"He was the kind of man who didn't take women
seriously," Meredith Blake said.
could have told him that C armlike contedeSo per
"Not in so many words. But I shah always see her
face as it was that afternoon-white and strained with a kind of
desperate gaiety She talked and laughed a lot. But her eyes--there was a kind of anguished grief in
them that was the most moving thing I have ever known. Such a
gentle creature, too."
Hercule Poirot looked at him for a
minute or two without speaking. Clearly the man in
front of him felt no incongruity in speaking thus
of a woman who, on the day after, had deliberately
killed her husband.
Meredith Blake went on. He had by now quite
overcome his first suspicious hostility. Hercule
Poirot had the
64 Mul In Reto gift of listening. To men such
as Meredith Blake the reliving of the past has a
definite attraction. He spoke now almost more
to himself than to his famous guest.
ought to have suspected something, I suppose. It was
Caroline who turned the conversation to--to my little
hobby. It was, I must confess, an enthusiasm of
mine. The old English herbalists, you know, are a
very interesting study. There are so many plants that were
formerly used m medicine and which have now disappeared from the
official pharmacopoeia. And it's astonishing,
really, how a simple decoction of something or other
will really work wonders. No need for doctors half the tfme. The French understand these things-some of their
tisanes are first- rate."
He was well away now on his hobby. "Dandelion
tea, for instance, marvelous stuff. And a
decoction of hips--I saw the other day somewhere that that
s coming into ash- 1on with the medical profession again.
Oh, yes, I must confess, I got a lot of
pleasure out of my brews. Gathering the plants
atthe right time, drying them, macerating them-i
a 1 the rest of it. Ive even dropped
to superstmon sometimes and gathered my roots at the
full of the moon or whatever it was the ancients
advised. On that day I gave my guests, I
remember, a special disquisition on the spotted
hemlock. It flowers biennially. You gather the
fruits when they're ripening, just before they turn
yellow. Coniine, you knoweaeais a drug that's
dropped right out-I don't believe there s any
official preparation of it in the lastphar,
macopoeia-but Ive proved the usefulness of it in
whooping cough, and in asthma, too, for that matter--was
"You talked of all this in your laboratory?"
"Yes, I showed them around, explained the various
drugs to them--valerian and the way it attracts cats--one sniff at that was enough for them! Then.they
asked about deadly nightshade, and I told them about
belladonna and atropine. They were very much
interested." "They? What is comprised in that word?"
Meredith Blake looked faintly surprised as
had forgotten that his listener had no firsthand knowledge of the
scene. were less-than " Oh, the whole party.
Let me see-Phillip was there, and I Amyas,
and Caroffffne, of course. Angela. And Elsa
"That was all?
"Yesl I think so. Yes, I am sure of it."
Blake looked at
'hm curiously. "Who else should there be?"
"I thought perhaps the governess-was
"Oh, I see. No, she wasn't there that afternoon.
I becclieve I've forgotten her name now. Nice
woman. Took her duties very seriously.
Angela worried her a good deal, I
His,"'eaWhy was that?"
ii Well, she was a nice kid, but she was inclined
to run i wild. Always up to something or other. Put
a slug or something down Amyas's back one day when he was hard at
work painting. He went up in smoke.
Cursed her up and bar down dale. It was after that that
he insisted on this school
were : ,eaSending her to school?"
stbar Yes. I don t mean he wasn't fond of
her, but he found
I were' her a bit of a nuisance sometimes. And I
"That he was a bit jealous. Caroline, you see, was
a slave to Angela. In a way, perhaps, Angela
came first with her-- and Amyas didn't like that. There
was a reason for it, of course. I won't go into that,
Poirot interrupted. "The reason being that Caroline
Crale reproached herself for an action that had
disfigured the girl."
Blake exclaimed, "Oh, you know that? I wasn't
going to mention it. All over and done with. But, yes,
that was the cause of her attitude, I think. She
always seemed to feel that there was nothing too much she could do-to make up, as it were."
Poirot nodded thoughtfully. "And
Angela?" he asked. "Did she bear a grudge
against her half sister?"
no; don't run away with that idea. Angela was
devoted to Caroline. She never gave that old
business a thought, I'm sure. It was just Caroline
who couldn't for. give herself." "Did Angela
take kindly to the idea of boarding school?"
she didn't. She was furious with Amyas.
Caroline took her side, but Amyas had
absolutely made his mind up about it. In spite
of a hot temper, Amyas was an easy man in most
respects, but when he really got his back up
everyone had to give in. Both Caroline and
Angela knuckled under." "She was to go
to school-whenough?" "The autumn term--they were getting
her kit together I remember. I suppose, if it
hadn't been for the t-raged] she would have gone off a
few days later. There was som@ctalk of her packing
on the morning of that day." "And the governess?"
Poirot asked. "What do you mean--the governess?"
"How did she like the idea? It deprived her of a job did it not?" "Yes--well, I suppose it
did in a way. Little Carla used to do a
few lessons, but of course she was only-what?
Si or thereabouts. She had a nurse. They wouldn't
have kept Miss Williams on for her. Yes,
that's the name-Williams Funny how things come back
to you when you talk they over." "Yes, indeed. You are
back now--are you not?--in this past. You relive the
scenes--the words that people said their gestures, the
expressions on their faces?" Meredith Blake said
a way--yes, but ther are gaps, you know--great
chunks missed out. I remembm for instance, the shock
it was to me wlfen I first learneq that Amyas was going
to leave Caroline, but I can't rt member whether it
was he who told me or Elsa. I do rc member
arguing with Elsa on the subject--trying to shox her,
I mean, that it was a pretty rotten thing to do. Am
she only laughed at me in that cool way of hers and
I was old-fashioned. Well, I dare say I
old-fashioned, but I still think I was right. Amyas
had a wife and child--he ought to have stuck to them."
"But Miss Greer thought that point of view out of date?" "Yes. Mind you, sixteen years ago, divorce
on quite so much as a matter of course as it is now.
Elsa was the kind of girl who went in for being
modern. Her point of view was that when two people
weren't happy together it was better to make a break.
She said that Amyas and Caroline never stopped having
rows and that it was far better for the child that she shouldn't be
Iit brdgught uPeople in an atmdgsphere dgf
"And her argument did not impress you?" asked
"I felt, all the time," Meredith Blake said
slowly, "that she didn't really know what she was
talking about. She was rattling these things off--things
she'd read in books or heard from her friends-it was like
a parrot. She was-it's a queer thing to say-pathetic, somehow. So young and so self-confident."
He paused. "There is something about youth, M.
Poirot, that is--that can be--terribly moving."
Hercule Poirot said, looking at him with some
interest, "I know what you mean." lake went on, speaking more to himself than
to Poirot. "That's partly, I think, why I
tackled Crale. He was nearly twenty years
older than the girl. It didn t seem fair.
"Alas, how seldom one makes any effect,"
Poirot murmured. "When a person has
determined on a certain course--especially when there
is a woman concerned-it is not easy to turn them from
Meredith Blake said, "That is true enough." His
tone was a shade bitter. "I certainly did no
good by my interference. But, then, I am not a very
convincing person. never have been." Poirot threw him a quick glance. He read into that
slight acerbity of tone the dissatisfaction of a
sensitive man with. his own lack of personality.
And he acknowledged to
himself the truth of what Blake had just said. Meredith
Blake was not the man to persuade anyone into or out of
any course. His well-meaning attempts would always
b set aside-indulgently usually, without anger,
but definiie ly set aside. They would not carry
weight. He was esseeao tially an ineffective
Poirot said, with an appearance of changing a
painflA subject, "You still have your laboratory of medicines ad cordials, yes?"
"No." The word came sharply--with an almost a:.
guished rapidity Meredith Blake said, his face
flushi% "I abandoned the whole thing-dismantled it.
I couldn t go on with it-how could I after what had
happened? The whole thing, you see, might have been said
to be zry fault."
i'eaationo, no, Mr. Blake, youare too
But don t you see? If I hadn t collected
those dammi drugs; if I hadn t laid stress
on them--boasted abct them--forced them on those people's
notice that aftdgnoon-- But I never thought--I
never dreamed-how could
"How indeed?"?But I went bumbling on about them.
Pleased with my
little bit of knowledge. Blind, conceited fool. I pointed out
that damned coniine. I even-fool that I was-took them back into the library and read them out that
passage from the
describing Socrates's death. A bea-tiful
piece of writing--I've always admired it-but it's
haunted me ever since." Poirot said, "Did they find any fingerprints on
the coniine bottle?"
Blake answered with one poignant word:
"No, I didn't handle the bottle, you see.
Only pointed to it."
"But at some time, surely, you had handled it?"
"Oh, of course, but I gave the bottles a
Murder In Retrospect 69 from time to time--I
never allowed the servants in there, of course-and I
had done that about four or five days previously."
"You kept the room locked up?"
"When did Caroline Crale take the coniine from
"She was the last to leave," Meredith Blake
replied reluctantly. "I called her, I
remember, and she came hurrying out. Her cheeks were
just a little pink, and her eyes wide and excited. I
can see her now--was
Poirot said, "Did you have any conversation with her at
all that afternoon? I mean by that, did you discuss
the situation as between her and her husband at all?" "Not directly," Blake said slowly in a low
voice. "She was looking, as I've told you, very
upset. I said to her at a moment when we were more or
less by ourselves, "Is anything the matter, my
dear?" She said, "Everything's the matter." I
wish you could have heard the desperation in her voice.
Those words were the absolute literal truth. There's
no getting away from it--Amyas Crale was
Caroline's whole world. She said, "Everything's
gone--finished. I'm finished, Meredith." And then
she laughed and turned to the others and was suddenly wild
and very unnaturally gay."
Hercule Poirot nodded his head slowly. He
looked very like a china mandarin. He said, "Yes--I
see--it was like that."
Meredith Blake pounded suddenly with his fist. His
voice rose. It was almost a shout. "And I'll
tell you this, M. Poirot--when Caroline.Crale
said at the trial that she
ook the stuff for herself, I 11 swear she was speaking
trutht There was no thought in her mind of murder
atthat time. I swear there wasn't. That
came later.??Are you sure that it did
come later?" Poirot asked.Blake stared. "I
beg your pardon?" he said. "I don'tquite
understand--"Poirot said, "I ask you whether you are
sure that the
Blake was not the man to persuade anyone into or out of
any course. His well-meaning attempts would always
usually, without anger, but definitely set aside.
They would not carry weight. He was essentially an
Poirot said, with an appearance of changing a painful
subject, "You still have your laboratory of medicines
and cordials, yes?"
"No." The word came sharply-with an almost anguished
rapidity Meredith Blake said, his face flushing,
"I abandoned the whole thing-dismantled it. I couldn't
go on with stt-how could I after what had happened? The
whole thing, you see, might have been said to be
"No, no, Mr. Blake, you are too
"But don't you see? If I hadn't collected
those damned drugs; if I hadn t laid stress on them-boasted about them--forced them on those people's
notice that after. noon-- But I never thonght--I
never dreamed--how could i-,,
"But I went bumbling on about them, Pleased with my
little bit of knowledge. Blind,
fool. I pointed out that damned comme. I
even-fool that I was-took them back into the
library and read them out that passage from the
describing Socrates s death. A beautiful
piece of writingTI'VE always admired it-but it's
haunted me ever since.
Poirot said, "Did they find any fingerprints on
the coniine bottle?"
Blake answered with one poignant word: "Hers."
"No. I didn't handle the bottle, you see.
"But at some time, surely, you had handled it?"
"Oh, of course, but I gave the bottles a periodic dusting
Murder In Retrospect 69 from time to time--I
never allowed the servants in there, of course-and I
had done that about four or five days
were' coniallyou kept the room locked up?"
"When did Caroline Crale take the coniine from
were' She was,, the last to leave, Meredith Blake
replied" re. luctantly. I called her, I
remember, and she came hurrying out. Her cheeks were
just a little pink, and her eyes wide and excited. I
can see her now--was Poirot said, "Didyou have any
conversation, with her at all that afternoon? I mean by that,
did you discuss the situation as between her and her husband
at all?" "Not directly," Blake said slowly
in a low voice. "She was looking, as I've told
you, very upset. I said to her at a moment when we were
more or less by ourselves, "Is anything the matter, my
dear?" She said, "Everything's the
matter." I wish you could have heard the desperauon
in her voice. Those words were the absolute literal
truth. There's no getting away from it--Amyas Crale was Caroline's whole world. She said,
"Everything's gone--finished. I'm finished,
Meredith." And then she laughed and turned to the others
and was suddenly wild and very unnaturally gay."
Hercule Poirot nodded his head slowly. He
looked very like a china mandarin. He said,
"Yes-stsee-it was like that." Meredith Blake pounded
suddenly with his fist. His voice rose. It was almost
a shout. "And I'll tell you this, M.
Poirot-whenough Caroline.Crale said at the trial
that she took the stuff for herself, I'll swear she was
speaking the trutht There was no thought in her mind of
murder at that time. I swear there wasn't. That
came later." "Are you sure that it
come later?" Poirot asked. Blake stared. "I
beg your pardon?" he said. "I don't quite understand-was
Poirot said, "I ask you whether you are sure that the
70 Murder In Rett'osI thought of murder ever
did come? Are you per[ectly convinced in your own
mind that Caroline Crale did deliberately
Meredith Blake's breath came unevenly. He
said, "But if not-if not-are you suggesting an--well,
accident of some kind?" "Not necessarily."
"That's a very extraordinary thing to say."
"Is it? You have called Caroline Crale a
gentle creature. Do gentle creatures commit
"She was a gentle creature, but all the same-weUs, there
were very violent quarrels, you know."
"Not such a gentle creature, then?"
"But she was--Oh, how diiticult these things are
"I am trying to understand."
"Caroline had a quick tongue--a vehement way of
speaking. She might say, "I hate you. I wish
you were dead," but it wouldn't mean--it wouldn't
"So in your opinion, it was highly uncharacteristic of
Mrs. Crale to commit murder?"
"You have the most extraordinary ways of putting
things, M. Poirot. I can only say that--yes,
it does seem to me.. uncharacteristic of her. I can
only explain it by realizing that the
provocation was extreme. She adored her husband.
Under those circumstances a woman might--well,
Poirot nodded. "Yes, I agree." "I was dumfounded at first. I didn't feel it
be true. And it wasn't true-if you know what I
mean--it wasn't the real Caroline who did that."
"But you are quite sure that, in the legal sense,
Caroline Crale did do it?"
Again Meredith Blake stared at him. "My dear
man, if she didn't--was
"Well, if she didn't?"
"I can't imagine any alternative solution.
Accident? Surely impossible."
Mur In R 7t "Quite impossible, I should
"And I can't believe in the suicide theory. It
had to be brought forward, but it was quite unconvincing
to anyone .... who knew Crale."
: conccQ." ,,
to i So what remains? asked Meredith Blake.
Poirot said coolly, There remains the
possibility of Amyas Crale having been
killed by somebody else."
"But that's absurdl
could have killed him but his wife. But he drove her
to it. And so, in a way, it was suicide after all, I suppose."
"Meaning that he died by the result of his own actions,
though not by his own hand?"
"Yes, it's a fanciful point of view, perhaps.
But--well, cause and effect, you know."
Hercule Poirot said, "Have you ever reflected,
Mr. Blake, that the reason for murder is nearly
always to be found by a study of the person murdered?"
"I hadn't exactly--yes, I suppose I
see what you mean." Poirot said, "Until you know
what sort of a person the victim was,
you cannot begin to see the circumstances of a crime
clearly.," He added, "That is what I am
seeking for-and what you and your brother have helped to give
me-a reconstruction of the man Amyas Crale."
Meredith Blake passed the main point of the remark
over. His attention had been attracted by a single
He said quickly, "Philip?"
"You have talked with him, also?"
Meredith Blake said sharply, "You should have come to me
Smiling a little, Poirot made a courteous gesture. "As your brother lives near London,
it was easier to visit him first."
Meredith Blake repeated, "You should have come to me
This time Poirot did not answer. He waited And
72 Murder In Retrospect ently Meredith
Blake went on. "Philip," he said, "is
"As a matter of fact, he's a mass of
prejudices-always has been." He shot a quick,
uneasy glance at Poirot. "He'll
have tried to put you against Caroline."
"Does that matter, so long-after?"
Meredith Blake gave a sharp sigh. "I know. I
forget that it's so long ago--that it's all over.
Caroline is beyond being harmed. But, all the same,
I shouldn't like you to get a false impression."
"And you think your brother might give me a
"Frankly, I do. You see, there was always a
certain-how shall I put it?--antagonism between him and
"Why?" , The question seemed to irritate Blake. He said,
'Why? How should I know
These things are so. Philip always crabbed her whenever
he could. He was annoyed, I think, when Amyas
married her. He never went near them for over a
year. And yet Amyas was almost his best friend. That was
the reason really, I suppose. He didn t
feel that any woman was good enough. And he
probably felt that Caroline's influence would
spoil their friendship.
did it?" "No, of course it didn't. Amyas was
always just as fond of Philip--right up to the end.
Used to twit him with being a moneygrubber and with growing a
corporation and being a Philistine generally. Philip
didn't care. He just used to grin and say it was a
good thing Amyas had one respectable friend." "How
did your brother react to the Elsa Greer
affair?" "Do you know, I find it rather
difficult to say. His attitude wasn't really
easy to define. He was annoyed, I think, with
Amyas for making a fool of himself over the girl.
He said more than once that it wouldn't work and that
Amyas would live to regret it. At the same time
I have a feeling-- yes, very definitely I have a feeling that he was just faintly
Mme In Retrospect 73 pleased at seeing
Caroline let down."
There was a silence. Then Blake said with the irritable
plaintiveness of a weak man, "It was all
over-forgotten-and now you come, raking it all up."
"Not I. Caroline Crale."
Meredith stared at him. "Caroline? What do you
Poirot said, watching him, "Caroline Crale the
Meredith's face relaxed. "Ah, yes, the child.
Little Carla. I-I misunderstood you for a moment."
"You thought I meant the original Caroline
Crale? You thought that it was she who would not-how shall I
say it? comrest easy in her grave?"
Blake shivered. "Don't, man."
"You know that she wrote to her daughter--the
last words she ever wrote-that she was innocent?"
Meredith stared at him. He said-and his voice sounded
utterly incredulous, "Caroline wrote
"Yes." Poirot paused and said, "It
surprises you?" "It would surprise you if you'd seen her in court.
hunted, defenseless creature. Not even struggling."
"No, no. She wasn't that. It was, I think,
the knowledge that she'd killed the man she loved-or I thought
it was that."
"You are not so sure now?"
"To write a thing like that--solemnly--when she was
Poirot said, "A pious lie, perhaps?"
"Perhaps." But Meredith was dubious. "That's not--that's
not like Caroline."
Hercule Poirot nodded. Carla Lemarchant had
said that. Carla had only a child's obstinate
memory. But Meredith Blake had known Caroline
well. It was the first confirmation Poirot had got that
Carla's belief was to be depended upon.
Meredith Blake looked up at him. He
said slowly, "If--if Caroline was innocent-whyou,
the whole thing's madness!
I don't see--any other possible solution."
He turned sharply
on Poirot. "And you-his What do you think?"
There was a silence.
"As yet," said Poirot at last, "I think nothing. I collect only the impressions: What
Caroline Crale was like. What Amyas Crale was
like. What the other people who were there at the time were like.
What happened exactly on those two days.
is what I need. To go over the facts
laboriously one by one. Your brother is going
to help me there. He is sending me an account of the
events as he remembers them."
"You won't get much from that," Meredith Blake said
sharpy$1 "Philip's a busy man. Things slip
,his memory once they're past and done with.
Probably he 11 remember things all wrong."
"Teahere will be gaps, of course. I realize that."
"I ,tell you what--was Meredith paused
abruptly, then went on, reddening a little as he
spoke. "If you like, I-- I could do the same. I
mean, it would be a kind of check, wouldn't
Her.cule Poirot said warmly, "It would be most
valuable. An idea of the first excellencel"
"Right. I will. I've got some old diaries
somewhere. Mind you," he laughed awkwardly, "I'm
not much of a hand at literary language. Even my
spelling's not too good. You-you won't expect too much?"
it is not the style I demand. Just a plain recital
of everything you can remember: What everyone said, how
they looked--just what happened. Never mind if it
doesn't seem relevant. It all helps with the
atmosphere, so to speak."
"Yes, I can see that. It must be difficult
neVeroccen'hing I wanted to ask you. Alderbury
is the adjoining property to this, is it not? Would it be
possible to go there--to see with my own eyes where the
Meredith Blake said slowly, "I can take you over
right away. But, of course, it to s a good deal
changed." "It has not been built over?"
"No, thank goodness--not quite so bad as that.
But it's a kind of hostel now--it was bought by some
society. Hordes of young people come down to it in the
summer, and, of course, all the rooms have been cut
up and partitioned into cubicles, and the grounds have been
altered a good deal."
"You must reconstruct it for me by your explanations."
"I'll do my best. I wish you could have seen it in the
old days. It was one of the loveliest properties I know."
He led the way out and began walking down a slope
"Who was responsible for selling it?"
"The executors on behalf of the child. Everything
Crale had came to her. He hadn't made a will,
so I imagine that it would be divided automatically
between his wife and the child. Caroline's will left what she
had to the child, also."
"Nothing to her half sister?"
"Angela had a certain amount of money of her own
left her by her father."
Poirot nodded. "I see." Then he uttered an
exclamation. "But where is it that you take me? This is
the seashore ahead of usr'
"Ah, I must explain our geography to you.
You'll see for yourself in a minute. There's
a creek, you see, Camel Creek, they call
it, runs right inland-looks almost like a river mouth,
hut it isn't--it's just sea. To get to Alderbury
by land, you have to go right inland and around the creek, but the
shortest way from one house to the other is to row across this
narrow bit of the creek. Alderbury is just
opposite-there, you can see the house through the trees.
They had come out on a little beach. Opposite them was a wooded headland, and a white house could just be
distinguished high up among the trees.
Two boats were drawn up on the beach. Meredith
Blake, with Poirot's somewhat awkward
assistance, dragged one
of them down to the water and presently they were rowing across
to the other side.
"We always went this way in the old days," Meredith
explained. "Unless there was a storm or it was raining,
and then we'd take the car. But it's nearly three
miles if you'go around that way."
He ran the boat neatly alongside a stone quay
on the other side. He cast a disparaging eye on a
collection of wooden huts and some concrete
"All new, this. Used to be a boathouse-tumble-down old place, and nothing else.
And one walked along the shore and bathed off those
rocks over there."
He assisted his guest to alight, made fast the
boat, and led the way up a steep path.
"Don't suppose we'll meet anyone," he said
over his shoulder. "Nobody here in April-except
for Easter. Doesnt matter if we do. I'm on
good terms with my neighbors. Sun's glorious
today. Might be summer. It was a wonderful day then. More like July than September. Brilliant
sun, but a chilly little wind."
The path came out of the trees and skirted an
outcrop of rock. Meredith pointed up with his hand.
"That s what they called the Battery. We're
underneath it now-skirting round it."
They plunged into trees again and then the path took
another sharp turn and they emerged by a door set in
a high wall. The path itself continued to zigzag
upward, but Meredith opened the door and the two men
passed through it.
For a moment Poirot was dazzled, coming in from the shade
outside. The Battery was an artificially cleared
plateau with battlements set with cannon. It gave
one the impression of overhanging the sea. There were
trees above it and behind it, but on the sea
side there was nothing but the dazzling blue water below.
"Attractive spot," said Meredith. He nodded
contemptuously toward a kind of pavilion set
back against the back wall. "That wasn't there, of
course--only an old tumble
Muz.c In Retrospect own shed where Amyas
kept his painting muck and some ilottled beer and a
few deck chairs. It wasn't concreted l then,
either. There used to be a bench and a table-- lainted iron ones. That was all. Still-it hasn't changed
I[much." His voice held an unsteady note.
IP-OIROT said, "And it was here that it happened?"
I Meredith nodded. "The bench was there-up against the
shed. He was sprawled on that. He used to sprawl
there I jometimes when he was painting--just fling himself
down find stare and stare, and then suddenly up he'd,
jump and 1 Itart laying the paint on the canvas
like mad." [i He paused. "That's why, you know,
he looked--almost were atural. As though he might
be asleep--just have dropped
hiswas off. But his were open--and he'd-just stiffened up.
There isn't any pain.
knew. "Who found here?"
"She did. Caroline. After lunch. Elsa and I,
I suppose, the last ones to see him
alive. It must have been
comor then. He-looked queer. I'd rather not talk about
I'll write it to you. Easier that way."
He turned abruptly and went out of the Battery.
Poirot flowed him without speaking. The two men went
on up the zigzag path. At a higher
left-brace than the Batter1, there was another
small plateau. It overshadowed with trees and there was
a bench there a table. Meredith said, "They haven't changed this
But the bench used not to be Ye Olde Rustic. It
just a painted iron business. A" hit hard for
sitting, a lovely view."
Poirot agreed. Through a framework of trees one
looked over the Battery to the creek mouth.
sat up here part of the morning," Meredith ex"Trees weren't quite so overgrown then. One see the
battlements of the Battery quite plainly. w! ere
Elsa was posing, you know. Sitting on one, her head
Ie gave a slight twitch of his shoulders.
faster than one thinks," he muttered.
"Oh, well, suppose I'm getting old. Come
on up to the house."
They continued to follow the path till it emerged near
the house. It had been a fine old house,
Georgian in style. It had been added to, and on
a green lawn near it were set some fifty little
wooden bathing hutches.
"Young men sleep there, girls in the house,"
"I don't suppose there's anything you want to see here.
All the rooms have been cut about. 13sed to be a
little conservatory tacked on here. These people have built
a loggia. Oh, well--I suppose they enjoy
their holidays. Can't keep everything as it used to be
--more's the pity."
He turned away abruptly. "We'll go down
another way. It-it all comes back to me, you know.
to conTI-IEY RETUP.ED to the quay by a somewhat
longer and more rambling route. Poirot did not
speak, nor did Blake. When they reached
Handcross Manor once more, Blake said
abruptly, "I bought that picture, you
know. The one that Amyas was painting. I just couldn't
stand the idea of its being sold for-well, publicity
value--a lot of dirty- minded brutes gaping
at it. It was a fine piece of work. Amyas said it
was the best thing he'd ever done. I shouldn't be
surprised if he was right. It was practically
finished. He only wanted to work on it another day
or so. Would-- would you care to see it?"
Hercule Poirot said quickly, "Yes, indeed."
Blake led the way across the hall and took a key
from his pocket. He unlocked a door and they went into a fair- sized, dusty-smelling room. It was
closely shuttered. Blake went "across to the windows
and opened the wooden shutters. Then, with a little
difficulty, he flung up a window and a breath of
fragrant spring air came wafting into the room.
Meredith said, "That's better."
He stood by the window inhaling the air, and Poirot
oined him. There was no need to ask what the room had
een. The shelves were empty, but there were marks upon them
where bottles had once stood. Against one wall was
some derelict chemical apparatus and a sink. The
room was thick in dust.
Meredith Blake was looking out of the window. He
were . ld, How easily
all comes back. Standing here, smell[ccing
the jasmine, and talking-talking, like the damned
ool I was, about my precious potions and
distillationsl" dgAbsently, Poirot stretched a
hand through the window. re pulled off a spray of
jasmine leaves just breaking from
their woody stem.
Meredith Blake moved resolutely across the
floor. On the wall was a picture covered with a
dust sheet. He jerked the dust sheet away. Poirot caught his breath. He had seen, so far,
four pictures of Amyas Crale's--two at the
Tate, one at a London dealer's, one, the still
life of roses. But now he was looking at what the
artist himself had called his best picture, and
Poirot realized at once what a superb artist
the man had been.
The painting had an odd, superficial smoothness.
At first sight it might have been a poster, so
seemingly crude were its contrasts. A girl, a
girl in a canary-yellow shirt and dark-blue
slacks, sitting on a gray wall in full
sunlight against a background of violent blue
sea. Just the kind of subject for a poster.
But the first appearance was deceptive; there was a
subtle distortion--an amazing brilliance and clarity
in the light. And the girl-Yes, here was life. All there was, all there could
be, of life, of youth, of sheer, blazing vitality.
The face was alive and the eyes-So much lifel Such passionate youthl That, then, was
what Amyas Crale had seen in Elsa Greer,
which had made him blind and deaf to the gentle creature,
his wife. Eisa
life. Elsa was youth. A superb, slim, straight creature, arrogant,
her head turned, her eyes insolent with triumph.
Looking at you, watching you--waiting-Hercule Poirot spread out his hands. He said,
"It is a great- Yes, it is great."
Meredith Blake said, a catch in his voice, "She
was so young--was
Poirot nodded. He thought to himself,
What do most people mean when they say that?
Something innocent, something appealing, something helpless.
But youth is not that! Youth is crude, youth is
strong, youth is powerful--yes, and cruel!
And one thing more-youth
Poirot followed his host to the door. His interest was
quickened now in Elsa Greer, whom he was to visit
next. What would the years have done to that passionate,
triumphant, crude child?
He looked back at the picture. Those eyes.
Watching him-watching him-telling him something-Supposing he couldn't understand what they were telling
him? Would the real woman be able to tell him? Or were
those eyes saying something that the real woman did not
know? Such arrogance, such triumphant anticipation-- And
then death had stepped in and taken the prey out of those
eager, clutching young hands. And the light had gone out of
those passionately anticipating eyes. What were the
eyes of Elsa Greer like now? i'
He went out of the room with one last look. He
She was too much alive.
He felt--a little-frightened ....
The house in Brook Street had Darwin tulips
in the window boxes. Inside the hall a great vase
of white lilacs to i sent eddies of perfume
toward the open front door. still A
middle-aged butler relieved Poirot of his hat
and stick. A footman appeared to take them, and the
butler murmured deferentially, "Will you come this way,
sir?" Poirot followed him along the hall and
down three steps. A door was opened, the butler
pronounced his name with every syllable correct. Then the
door closed behind him and a tall, thin man got up
from a chair by the fire and came toward him. Lord
Dittisham was a man just under forty. He was not only
a peer of the realm; he was a poet. Two of his
fantastical poetic dramas had been staged at
vast expense and had had a
succs d'estime. His forehead was rather prominent, his chin was eager, and his
eyes and his mouth unexpectedly beautiful. He
said, "Sit down, M. Poirot." Poirot sat
down and accepted a cigarette from his host,
Lord Dittlsham shut the box, struck a match, and
held it for Poirot to light his cigarette, then he
himseif sat down and looked thoughtfully at his
"It is my wife you have come to see, I know," he
Poirot answered, "Lady Dittisham was so kind
as to give
me an appointment."
There was a pause.
"You do not, I hope, object, Lord
Dittisham?" Poirot hazarded.
The thin, dreamy face was transformed by a sudden, quick
smile. "The objections of husbands, M.
never taken seriously in these days."
"Then you do object?"
"No. I cannot say that. But I am, I must confess
it, a little fearful of the effect upon my wife. Let
me be quite frank. A great many years ago, when my wife was only a young girl, she passed through a
terrible ordeal. She has, I hope, recovered from
the shock. I have come to believe that she has forgotten
it. Now you appear and necessarily
"I can only assure you, Lord Dittisham, that I
shall be as discreet as possible, and do all I can not
to distress Lady Dittisham. She is, no
doubt, of a delicate and nervous temperament."
Then, suddenly and surprisingly, the other laughed.
He said, "Elsa? Elsa's as strong as a
"Then--was Poirot paused
diplomatically. The situation intrigued him.
Lord Dittisham said, "My wife is equal
to any amount of shocks. I wonder if you know her
reason for seeing you?"
Poirot replied placidly, "Curiosity?"
A kind of respect showed in the other man's eyes.
"Ah, you realize that?"
"It is inevitable," Hercule Pohrot said.
Murder In Retrospect 83
see a private detective. Men will tell him
to go to the devil."
"Some women might tell him to go to the devil, too." "After they have seen him--not before."
"Perhaps." Lord Dittisham paused. "What is the
idea behind this book?"
Hercule Poirot shrugged his shoulders. "One
resurrects the old tunes, the old stage
turns, the old costumes. One
resurrects, too, the old murders."
"Faught" said Lord Dittisham.
"Faughl if you like. But you will not alter human
nature by saying faugh. Murder is a drama. The
desire for drama ('ness very strong in the
Lord Dittisham murmured,
know--I know." He rose and rang the belLike "My
wife will be waiting for you," he said brusquely.
The door opened.
"You rang, my lord?"
"Take M. Poirot up to her ladyship."
Up two flights of stairs, feet sinkin-g
into soft-pile carpets. Subdued floodlighting.
Money, money everywhere. Of taste, not so much. There
had been a somber austerity in Lord Dittisham's
room. But here, in the house, there was only a solid
lavishness. The best. Not necessarily the showiest nor the most startling. Merely "expense no
object," allied to a lack of imagination.
It was not a large room into which Poirot was shown. The
big drawing-room was on the first floor. This was the
personal sitting-room of the mistress of the house,
and the mistress of the house was standing against the
mantelpiece as Poirot was announced and shown
A phrase leaped into his startled mind and refused
to be driven out:
She died young.
That was his thought as he looked at Elsa Dittisham
who had been Elsa Greer.
He would never have recognized her from the picture
Meredith Blake had shown him. That had been, above
all, a picture of youth, a picture of
vitality. Here there was
84 Mutler In Retrospect no youth-there might
never have been youth. And yet he realized, as he had
not realized from Crale's picture, that Elsa was
beautiful. Yes, it was a very beautiful woman who
came forward to meet him. And certainly not old.
After all, what was she? Not more than thirty-six
now, if she had been twenty at the time of the
He felt a strange pang. It was, perhaps, the fault of old Mr. Johnathan, speaking of
Juliet. No Juliet here-unless perhaps one could
imagine Juliet a survivor-living on,
deprived of Romeo. Was it not an essential part
make-up that she should die young?
Elsa Greer had been left alive.
She was greeting him in a level, rather monotonous
voice. "I am so interested, M. Poirotl
Sit down and tell me what you want me
But she isn't interested. Nothing interests
Big gray eyes-like dead lakes.
Poirot became, as was his way, a little obviously
foreign. He exclaimed, "I am confused,
madame, veritably I am confused."
"Because I realize that this--this reconstruction of a past
drama must be excessively painful to you."
She looked amused. Yes, t, was amusement. Quite
genuine amusement. She said, I suppose my
husband put that idea into your head. He saw you when you arrived. Of course, he doesn't understand in the
least. He never has. I'm not at all the
sensitive sort of person he imagines I am."
Poirot thought to himself,
Yes, that is true. A thin- skinned person would not
have come to stay in Car61ine Crale" s house.
Lady Dittisham said, "What is it you want me
"You are sure, madame, that to go over the past would not
be painful to you?"
She considered a minute, and it struck Poirot
suddenly that Lady Dittisham was a very frank
woman. She might
lie from necessity but never from choice.
Elsa Dittisham said slowly, "No, not
In a way, I
wish it were."
She said impatiently, "It's so stupid-never
to feel anything."
And Hercule Poirot thought,
Yes, Elsa Greer is dead.
Aloud he said, "At all events, Lady
Dittisham, it makes
my task very much easier. Have you a good memory?" "Reasonably good, I think."
"And you are sure it will not pain you to go over those days
"It won't pain me at all. Things can only pain
you when they are happening."
"It is so with some people, I know."
Lady Dittisham said, "That's what Edward, my
husband, can't understand. He thinks the trial and all was a terrible ordeal for me."
"Was it not?"
Elsa Dittisham said, "No, I enjoyed it."
There was a reflective, satisfied quality in her
voice. She went on. "God, how that old brute
Depleach went for mel He's a devil, if you like.
I enjoyed fighting him. He didn't get me
She looked at Poirot with a smile. "I hope
I'm not upsetting your illusions. A girl of
twenty, I ought to have been prostrated, I suppose
--agonized with shame or something. I wasn't. I
didn't care what they said to me. I only
wanted one thing."
"To get her hanged, of course," said Elsa Dittisham.
He noticed her hands--beautiful hands but with long,
curving nails. Predatory hands.
She said, "You're thinking me vindictive? So I
am vin- dictive-to anyone who has injured me.
That woman was to my mind the lowest kind of woman there
is. She knew that Amyas cared for me--that he was
going to leave her comand she killed him so that I shouldn't
She looked across at Poirot. "Don't you think
"You do not understand or sympathize with jealousy?
"No, I don't think I do. If you've lost,
you've lost. If you can't keep your husband, let
him go with a good grace. It's possessiveness I
"You might have understood it if you had ever married
"I don't think so. We weren't--was She smiled
suddenly at Poirot. Her smile was, he
felt, a little frightening. It was so far removed from any
real feeling. "I'd like you to get this right," she said.
"Don't think that Amyas Crale seduced an
innocent young girl. It wasn't like that at alll Of the two of us, I was responsible. I met him
at a party
and I fell for him. I knew I had to have him--was
"Although he was married?"
"Trespassers will be prosecuted? It takes more
than a printed notice to keep you from reality. If
he was unhappy with his wife and could be happy with me,
then why not? We've only one life
"But it has been said he was happy with his wife."
Else shook her head. "No. They quarreled like
cat and dog. She nagged at him. She was-oh,
she was a horrible womanl" She got up and lit a
cigarette. She said with a little smile, "Probably
I m unfair to her. But I really do think she was
Poirot said slowly, "It was a great tragedy."
"Yes, it was a great tragedy." She turned on
him suddenly; into the dead, monotonous weariness of
her face something came quiveringly alive. "It
do you understand? It killed me. Ever since, there's
been nothing --nothing at all." Her voice
,eadopped. "Emptinessl" She waved her hands impatiently. "Like a stuffed fish in a glass
"Did Amyas Crale mean so much to you?"
She nodded. It was a queer, confiding little nod-oddly
pathetic. She said, "I think Ive always had a
single-track mind." She mused somberly. "I
suppose-really-one ought to put a knife into oneself-like
Juliet. But-but to do that
is to acknowledge that you're done for-that life's beaten
"There ought to be everything-just the same-once one has
got over it. I
get over it. It didn't mean anything to me any
more. I thought I'd go on to the next thing."
Yes, the next thing, Poirot saw her plainly
trying so hard to fulfill that crude determination.
Saw her beautiful and rich, seductive to men,
seeking with greedy, predatory hands to fill up a
life that was empty. Hero worship--a marriage
to a famous aviator; then an explorer, that big
giant of a man Arnold Stevensen, possibly not
unlike Amyas Crale physically-a reversion
to the creative arts; Dittishaml
Elsa Dittisham said, "I've never been a hypocritel There's a Spanish proverb I've
always liked. 'Take what you want and pay for it,
says God." Well, I've done that. I've
taken what I wanted-but I've always been willing
to pay the price."
"What you do not understand," Poirot said,
that there are things that cannot be bought."
She stared at him.
don't mean just money."
Poirot said, "No, no; I understand what you
meant. But it is not everything in life that has its
ticket, so much.
There are things that are
not for sale."
He smiled very faintly. In her voice was the
arrogance of the successful mill hand who had risen
Hercule Poirot felt a sudden wave of pity.
He looked at the ageless smooth face, the weary
eyes, and he remembered the girl whom Amyas
Crale had painted.
Elsa Dittisham said, "Tell me all about this book. What is the purpose of it? Whose idea is
"Oh, my dear lady, what. other, purpose is
there but to
serve up yesterday's sensauon with today's sauce?"
not a writer?" "No, I am an expert on
"You mean, they consult you on crime books?" "Not
always. In this case, I have a commission." "From
whom?" "I am-what do you say?--working on this
on behalf of an interested party." "What party?"
"Miss Carla Lemarchant." "Who is she?"
"She is the daughter of Amyas and Caroline
Crale." Elsa stared for a minute. Then she said,
"Oh, of course, there
a child. I remember. I suppose she's grown up
she is twenty-one." "What is she like?" "She is
tall and dark and, I think, beautiful. And she has
courage and personality." Elsa said thoughtfully,
"I should like to see her." "She might not care to see you."
Elsa looked surprised. "Why? Oh, I see.
But what non- sensel She can't possibly
remember anything about it. She can't have been more than
six." "She knows that her mother was tried for her father's
murder." "And she thinks it's my
fault?" "It is a possible interpretation."
Elsa shrugged her shoulders. "How stupidl" she
said. "If Caroline had behaved like a reasonable
human being-was "So you take no responsibility?"
"Why should I? I've nothing to be ashamed of. I
loved him. I would have made him happy." She
looked across at Poirot. Her face broke up--suddenly, incredibly, he saw the girl of the
picture. She said, If I could make you see.
If you could see it from my side. If you knew--was
Poirot leaned forward. "But that is what I want.
See, Mr. Philip Blake, who was there at the
time, he is writing me a meticulous account of
everything that happened. Mr. Meredith Blake the
same. Now if you
Murder In Retrospect 89 Elsa
Dittisham took a deep breath. She said
contemptuously, "Those twol Philip was always
stupid. Meredith used to trot around after Caroline-but he was quite a" dear. But you won't have
real idea from
He watched her, saw the animation rising in
her eyes, saw a living woman take shape from a
dead one. She said quickly and almost fiercely, "Would
you like the
Oh, not for publication. But just for yourself--was
"I will undertake not to publish without your consent."
"I'd like to write down the truth." She was silent
a minute or two, thinking. He saw the smooth
hardness of her cheeks falter and take on a younger
curve; he saw life,, flowing into her as the past
claimed her again.
To go back-to write it all down-- To show you what
she was--was Her eyes flashed. Her breast heaved
passionately. "She killed him. She killed
Amyas. Amyas, who wanted to live--who enjoyed
living. Hate oughtn't to be stronger than love--but
her hate was. And my hate for her is-- I
hate her--I hate her--I hate her."
She came across to him. She stopped, her hand
clutched at his sleeve. She said urgently, "You must understand-- you must-how we felt about each other.
Amyas and I, I mean. There's something-- I'll
She whirled across the room. She was unlocking a little
desk, pulling out a drawer concealed inside
Then she was back. In her hand was a creased letter, the
ink faded. She thrust it on him, and Poirot had
a sudden poignant memory of a child he had known who
had thrust on him one of her treasures-a special
shell picked up on the seashore and zealously
guarded. Just so had that child stood back and watched him.
keenIy critical of his reception of her
He unfolded the faded sheets, and read:
Elsa--comy wonderful ,ch! Theeaence never was anything
as beauti[ul. And yet I m afraid--I m
too old--a middle- aged, ugly-tempered devil
with no stability in me. Don't trust me, don't
believe in me-l'm no good, apart From
90 Murder In Retrospect
my work. The best of me is in that. There, don't
say you haven't been warned.
But, my lovely, Fm going to have you all the same. I'd go to the devil for you, and you know it. And I'll
paint a picture of you that will make the [atheaded
world hold its sides and gasp! I'm crazy about
you--I can't sleep, I can't eat. Elsa-Elsa--Elsa--I'm yours forever; yours
till death. Amyas.
Sixteen years ago. Faded ink, crumbling
paper. But the words still alive, still vibrating.
He looked across at the woman to whom they had been
written. But it was no longer a woman at whom he
looked. It was a young girl in love. He thought again
"May I ask why, M. Poirot?"
Hercule Poirot considered his answer to the question.
He was aware of a pair of very shrewd gray eyes
watching him out of the small, wizened face.
He had climbed to the top floor of the bare building
and knocked on the door of No. 584
Gillespie Buildings, which had come into existence
to provide so-called "fiat-lets" for workingwomen.
Here, in a small cubic space, existed Miss
Cecilia Williams, in a room that was bedroom,
sitting-room, dining-room and, by judicious use of the
gas ring, kitchen-a kind of cubbyhole attached to it
contained a quarter-length bath and the usual offices.
Meager though these surroundings might be, Miss Williams had contrived to impress upon them her
stamp of personality.
The walls were distempered an ascetic pale gray,
and various reproductions hung upon them.
Dant meeting Beatrice on a bridge, and that
picture once described by a child as a "blind girl
sitting on an orange and called, I don't know
why, Hope." There were also two water colors of
Venice and a sepia copy of Botticelli's
Primavera. On the top of the low chest of drawers
were a large quantity of faded photographs,
mostly, by their style of hairdress.
ing, dating from twenty to thirty years ago.
The square of carpet was threadbare, the furniture
and of poor quality. It was clear to Hercule
Poirot that Cecilia Williams lived very near
the bone. There was no roast beef here. This was the little
pig that had none. Clear, incisive and insistent, the
voice of Miss Williams repeated its demand.
"You want my recollections of the Crale case?
May I ask why?" It has been said of Hercule
Poirot by some of his friends and associates, at
moments when he has maddened them most, that he
prefers lies to truth and will go out of his L- way to gain his ends by means of elaborate false
statements, were rather than trust to the simple truth.
But in this case he proffered no specious
explanation of a book to be written on
bygone crimes. Instead he narrated [-simply the circumstances in which Carla Lemarchant
had were sought him out. were' The small, elderly lady
in the neat, shabby dress listened were attentively.
She said, "It interests me very much to have were news of
that child-to know how she has turned out."
bar "She is a very charming and attractive young
woman, of courage and a mind of her own." said
Miss Williams briefly: "And she Is," I
may say, a very perslstent person.,, She is
." rsor whom it is easy to refuse orplut off.
ex-governess nodded thoughtfully. She asked, "Is
i she artistic?" "I think not." Miss
Williams said dryly, "That's one thing to be
thankful forl" The tone of the remark left Miss
Williams's views as to artists in no doubt
whatever. She added, "From your account of her I should
imagine that she takes after her mother rather than after her
father." "Very possibly. That you can tell me when you have
her. You would like to see her?" "I should like to see her very
much indeed. It is always 92 Murder In Retrospect
interesting to see how a child you have known has
"She was, I suppose, very young when you last saw
her?" "She was five and a half. A very charming child--a
little overquiet, perhaps. Thoughtful. Given to playing
her own little games and not inviting outside
co-operation. Natural and unspoiled."
Poirot said, "It was fortunate she was so young."
"Yes, indeed. Had she been older the shock of the
tragedy might have had a very bad effect."
"Nevertheless," said Poirot, "one feels that there was
a handicap-however little the child understood or was allowed
to know, there would have been an atmosphere of mystery and
evasion and an abrupt uprooting. These things are not
good for a child."
Miss Williams replied thoughtfully, "They may
have been less harmful than you think."
Poirot said, "Before we leave the subject of
Carla Le-marchant-little Carla Crale that was-there is something I would like to ask you. If anyone can
explain it, I think
"Yes?" Her voice was inquiring,
noncommittal. Poirot waved his hands in an effort to express his
"There is a something--a nuance I cannot
define--but it seems to me always that the child, when I
mention her, is not given her full value. When I
mention her, the response comes always with a vague
surprise, as though the person to whom I speak had
forgotten altogether that there
a child. Now surely, mademoiselle, that is not
natural. A child, under these circumstances, is a
person of importance, not in herself, but as a pivotal
point. Amyas Crale may have had reasons for
abandoning his wife-0r for not abandoning her. But in the
usual breakup of a marriage the child forms a very
important point. But here the child seems to count for very
little. That seems to me--strange."
Miss Williams said quickly, "You have put your
finger on a vital point, M. Polrot. You are
quite right. And that
Murd In lletrosict 93 is partly why I said
what I did just now-that Carla's transportation
to different surroundings might have been in some
respects a good thing for her. When she became
older, you see, she might have suffered from a certain
lack in her home life." She leaned forward and spoke slowly and carefully.
"Naturally, in the course of my work, I
have seen a good many aspects of the parent-and-child problem.
children, I should say, suffer from overattention on the part
of their parents. There is too much love, too much
watching over the child. It is uneasily consciom of this
brooding, and seeks to free itself, to get away and be
unobserved. With an only ild this is particularly
the case, and, of course, mothers are the worst
"The result on the marriage is often
unfortunate. The husband resents coming second,
seeks consolation--or rather flattery and
attention-elsewhere, and a divorce results sooner
or later. The best thing for a child, I am convinced, is
to have what I should term healthy neglect on of both
its parents. This happens naturally in the case of a
large family of children and very little money. They are
overlooked because the mother has literally no time to occupy
herself with them. They realize quite well that she is fond
of them, but they are not worried by too many
manifestations of the fact.
"But there is another aspect. One does occasionally find a husband and wife who are so all-sufficient
to each other, up in each other, that the child of the
marriage seems very real to either of them. And in those
circumstances, I think, a child comes to resent that
fact, to feel defrauded and left out in the cold.
You understand that I am not speaking of
any way. Mrs. Crale, for instance, was what is
termed an excellent mother, always careful of Carla's
welfare, of her health, playing with her at the right
times, and always kind and gay. But, for all that, Mrs.
Crale was really completely wrapped up in her
husband. She existed, one might say, only in him
and for him." Miss Williams paused a minute and
94 Murder In Retrospect quietly, "That,
I think, is the justification for what she eventually
"You mean," Hercule Poirot said, "that they were more
like lovers than like husband and wife?"
Miss Williams, with a slight frown of distaste for
phraseology said, "You could certainly put it that
way." "He was as devoted to her as she was to him?"
"They were a devoted couple. But he, of course, was
a man." Miss Williams contrived to put into that last word a wholly Victorian
"Men-was said Miss Williams, and stopped.
As a rich property owner says, "Bolsheviks,"
as an earnest Communist says, "Capitalists,"
as a good housewife says, "Black beetles,"
so did Miss Williams say, "Men."
From her spinster's, governess's life, there rose up
a blast of fierce feminism. Nobody hearing her
speak could doubt
that, to Miss Williams, Men were the Enemyl
Poirot said, "You hold no brief for men?"
She answered dryly, "Men have the best of this world.
I hope that it will not always be so."
Hercule Poirot eyed her speculatively.
He could quite easily visualize Miss
Williams methodically and efficiently padlocking
herself to a railing, and later hunger-striking with
resolute endurance. Leaving the general for the
particular, he said, "You did not like Amyas
"I certainly did not like Mr. Crale. Nor
did I approve of him. If I had been his
wife I should have left him.
There are things that no woman should put up with." "But Mrs. Crale did put up with them?"
"You think she was wrong?"
"Yes, I do. A woman should have a certain
respect for herself and not submit to humiliation."
"Did you ever say anything of that kind to Mrs.
Crale?" "Certainly not. It was not my place to do
so. I was engaged to educate Angela, not to offer
unasked advice to Mrs. Crale. To do so would have
been most impertinent."
"You liked Mrs. Crale?"
was very fond of Mrs. Crale." The efficient
voice softened, held warmth and feeling.
fond of her and very sorry for her."
"And your pupil--Angela Warren?" Poirot
leaned forward, his eyes fixed hard on Miss
"SHE WAS a most interesting girl-one of the most
interesting pupils I have had," Miss Williams
said. "A really good brain. Undisciplined,
quick-tempered, most difficult to manage in many
ways, but really a very fine character."
She paused and then went on. "I always hoped that she would accomplish something worth while. And
she had You have read her book--on the Sahara? And
she excavated those very interesting tombs in the
Fayum! Yes, I am proud of Angela. I was
not at Alderbury very long--two years and a half-but I always cherish the belief that I helped
to stimulate her mind and encourage her taste for
"I understand," Poirot murmured, "that it was
decided to continue her education by sending her to school.
You must have resented that decision."
"Not at all, M. Poirot. I thoroughly
concurred in it." She paused and went on. "Let
me make the matter clear to you. Angela was a dear
girl, really a very dear girl--warmhearted and
impulsive-but she was also what I call a
difficult girl. That is, she was at a difficult
age. There is always a moment where a girl feels
unsure of herself--neither child nor woman. At one
minute Angela would be sensible and mature-quite
grown-up, in fact-but a minute later she would
relapse inffbeing a hoydenish child--playing
mischievous tricks and being rude and losing her
"Girls, you know, [eel
difficult at that age--they are terribly
sensitive. Everything that is said to them they resent.
They are annoyed at being treated like children and then they
suddenly feel shy at being treated like adults.
Angela was in that state. She had fits of temper,
resent teasing and flare out, and then she would be sulky
for days at a time, sitting about and frowning; then again
she would be in wild spirits, climbing trees, rushing
about with the garden boys, refusing to submit to any kind
"When a girl gets to that stage, school is very
helpful She needs the stimulation of other minds-that
and the wholesome discipline of a community help her
to become a reasonable member of society.
Angela's home conditions were not what I would have
called ideaLM-RS. Crale spoiled her, for one
thing. Angela had only to appeal to her and Mrs.
Crale always backed her up. The result was that
Angela considered she had first claim upon her
sister's time and attention, and it was in these moods of
hers that she used to clash with Mr. Crale.
"Mr. Crale naturally thought that
should come first and he intended to. He was really very fond of the girl--they were good companions and used
to spar together quite amiably, but there were times when Mr.
Crale used suddenly to resent Mrs. Crale's
preoccupation with Angela. Like all men, he was a
Spoiled child--he expected everybody to make a
Then he and Angela used to have a real set-to--and
very often Mrs. Crale would take Angela's
side. Then he would be furious. On the other hand,
Angela would be furious. It was on these occasions that
Angela used to revert to childish ways and play
some spiteful trick on him.
"He had a habit of tossing off his drinks, and she
once put a lot of salt into his drink. The
whole thing, of course, acted as an emetic, and he
was inarticulate with fury. But what really brought
things to a head was when she put a lot of slugs
into his bed. He had a queer aversion for slugs.
He lost his temper completely and said that the
girl had to be sent away to school. He wasn't going to put up with all this petty nonsense any more.
"Angela was terribly upset--though actually she
had once or twice expressed a wish herself to go
to a large school, but she chose to make a huge
grievance of it. Mrs.
Crale didn't want her to go, but allowed herself
to he lettersuaded-largely owing, I think, to what I
said to her on the subject. I pointed out to her that it
would be greatly to Angela s advantage, and that I
thought it would really be a great benefit to the girl. So
it was settled that she should go to Helston--a very fine
school on the south coast-in the autumn term.
"But Mrs. Cram was still unhappy about it all those
holidays. And Angela kept up a grudge against
Mr. Crale whenever she remembered. It wasn't
really serious, you understand, M. Poirot, but it
made a kind of undercurrent that summer to--well-to everything else that was going on."
"Meaning--Elm Greer?" Poirot said. Miss
Williams said sharply, "Exactly." "What was
yotu[, opinion of Elsa Greer?"
"I had no opinion of her at all. A thoroughly
unprincipled young woman."
"She was very young."
"Old enough to know better. I can see no excuse for
her-none at all. "She fell in love with him, I suppose--was
Miss Williams interrupted with a snort.
"Fell in love with him, indeed. I should hope,
M. Poirot, that whatever our feelings, we can
keep them in decent control. And we can certainly
control our actions. That girl had absolutely no
morals of any kind. It meant nothing to her that
Mr. Crale was a married man. She was
absolutely shameless about it all-cool and
determined. Possibly she may have been badly
brought up, but that's the only excuse I can find for
"Mr. Crale's death must have been a terrible shock
to her," said Poirot.
"Oh, it was. And she herself was entirely to blame
for it. I don't go as far as condoning murder, but
all the same, M. Poirot, if ever a woman was
driven to the breaking point that woman was Caroline
CraM. I tell you frankly, there were moments when
I would have liked to murder
Murder In Retrospect 99 them both myself.
Flaunting the girl in his wife's face, listening
to her having to put up with the girl s
insolence comand she was insolent, M. Poirot. Oh,
no, Amyas Crale deserved what he got. No man should treat his
wife as he did and not be punished for it. His death was
a just retribution."
Hercule Poirot said, "You feel strongly."
The small woman looked at him with those indomitable
gray eyes. She said, "I feel
about the marriage tie. Unless it is respected and
upheld, a country degenerates. Mrs. Crale
was a devoted and faithful wife. Her husband
deliberately flouted her and introduced Elsa
Greer into her home. As I say, he deserved
what he got. He goaded her past endurance and
I, for one, do not blame her for what she did."
Poirot said slowly, "He acted very badly--that
I admit. But he was a great artist, remember."
Miss Williams gave a terrific snort.
"Oh, yes, I know. That's always the excuse
nowadays. An artist! An excuse for every kind of
loose living, for drunkenness, for brawling, for
infidelity. And what kind of an artist was Mr.
Crale, when all is said and done? It
may be the fashion to admire his pictures for a few
years. But they won t last. Why, he couldn t
even drawl His perspective was terribiel Even his anatomy was quite incorrect. I know something of what
I am talking about, M. Poirot. I studied
painting for a time, as a girl, in Florence,
2 and to anyone who knows and appreciates the great
masters these daubs of Mr. Crale's are really
splashing a few colors about on the canvas-no
construction, no careful drawing. No," she shook
her head, "don't
ask me to admire Mr. Crale's painting."
"Two of them are in the Tare Gallery," Poirot
Miss Williams sniffed. "Possibly. So is
one of Mr. Epstein's statues, I believe."
Poirot perceived that, according to Miss Williams, the
last word had been said. He abandoned the subject of
He said, "You were with Mrs. Crale when she found the
"Yes. She and I went down from the house
together after lunch. Angela had left her pull-over
on the beach after bathing, or else in the boat. She
was always very careless about her things. I parted from Mrs. Crale at the door of the Battery Garden, but she
called me back almost at once. I believe
Mr. Crale had been dead over an hour. He was
sprawled on the bench near his easel."
"Was she terribly upset at the discovery?"
"What exactly do you mean by. that, M.
am asking you what your unpressions were at the time."
"Oh, I see. Yes, she seemed to me quite dazed.
She sent me off to telephone for the doctor. After
all, we couldn't be absolutely sure he was
dead-it might have been a cataleptic seizure."
"Did she suggest such a possibility?"
"And you went and telephoned?"
Miss Williams's tone was dry and brusque.
"I had gone half up the path when I met Mr.
Meredith Blake. I entrusted my errand to him and
returned to Mrs. Crale. I thought, you see, she
might have collapsed--and men are
no good in a matter of that kind."
"And had she collapsed?"
Miss Williams said dryly, "Mrs. Crale
was qtite in command of herself. She was quite different from Miss Greer,
who made a hysterical and very unpleasant scene."
"What kind of a scene?"
"She tried to attack Mrs. Crale."
"You mean she realized that Mrs. Crale was
responsible for Mr. Crale's death?"
Miss Williams considered for a moment or two.
"No, she could hardly be sure of that. That-er-terrible suspicion had not yet arisen. Miss
Greer just screamed out, "It's all your doing,
Caroline. You killed him. It's all your
fault." She did not actually say, "You've
poisoned him," but
I think there is no doubt that she thought so." "And
Miss Williams moved restlessly. "Must we be
hypocritical, M. Poirot? I cannot tell you
what Mrs. Crale really felt or thought at that
moment. Whether it was horror at what she had done
"Did it seem like that?"
"n-no, n-no, I can't say it did.
Stunned, yes-and, I think, frightened. Yes, I
am sure, frightened. But that is natural enough."
Hercule Poirot said in a dissatisfied tone, "Yes, perhaps that is natural enough. What view
did she adopt officially as to her husband's death?"
"Suicide. She said, very definitely from the first, that
it must be suicide."
"Did she say the same when she was talking to you
privately, or did she put forward any other
"No. She-she-took pains to impress upon me that
must be suicide." Miss Williams sounded
embarrassed. "And what did you say to that?"
"Really, M. Poirot, does it matter
"Yes, I think it does."
* "I don't see why-was But as though his
expectant silence hypnotized her, she said
reluctantly, "I think I said, "Certainly,
Mrs. Crale. It must have been suicide.""
"Did you believe your own words?"
Miss Williams raised her head.
"No, I did not," she said firmly. "But please
understand, M. Poirot, that I was entirely on
Mrs. Crale's side, if you like to put it that
My sympathies were with" her, not with the police.". ,, "You would have liked to have seen her acqmtted? Miss
Williams said defiantly, "Yes, I would."
"Then you are in sympathy with her daughter's
"I have every sympathy with Carla."
"Would you have any objection to writing out for me a
detailed account of the tragedy?"
"You mean for her to read?"
Miss Williams said slowly, "No, I have no
objection. She is quite determined to go into the matter,
"Yes. I dare say it would have been preferable if
the truth had been kept from her--was
Miss Williams interrupted him. "No. It is
always better to face the truth. It is no use
evading unhappiness, by tampering with facts. Carla
has had a shock, learning the truth-now she wants
to know exactly how the tragedy came about. That
seems to me the right attitude for a brave
young woman to take. Once she knows all about it she
will be able to forget it again and go on with the business of
living her own life."
"Perhaps you are right," said Poirot.
"I'm quite sure I'm right." "But, you see, there is more to it than that. She not only
wants to know--she wants to prove her mother
innocent." Miss Williams said, "Poor child."
"That is what you say, is it?"
Miss Williams said, "I see now why you said that
it might be better if she had never known. All the
same, I think it is best as it is. To wish to find
her mother innocent is a natural hope-and, hard
though the actual revelation may be, I think, from
what you say of her, that Carla
is brave enough to learn the truth and not flinch from it."
"You are sure it
truth?" Poirot asked. "I don't understand you."
"You see no loophole for believing that Mrs.
Crale was innocent?"
"I don't think that possibility has ever been
"And yet she herself clung to the theory of suicide?"
Miss Williams said dryly, "The
poor woman had to say
you know that when Mrs. Crale was dying she left a
letter for her daughter in which she solemnly swears that
she is innocent?" Miss Williams stared. "That was very wrong of her,"
"You think so?"
"Yes, I do. Oh, I dare say you are a
sentimentalist like most men--was
Poirot interrupted indignantly. "I am
"But there is such a thing as false sentiment. Why
write that-a lie--at such a solemn moment?
To spare your child pain? Yes, many women would do that.
But I should not have thought it of Mrs. Crale. She was
a brave woman and a truthful woman. I should have
thought it far more like her to have told her daughter not
Poirot said with slight exasperation, "You will not even
consider, then, the possibility that what Caroline
wrote was the truth?"
Miss Williams looked at Poirot in a very
odd way. "It doesn't matter my saying this
now-so long afterward. You
see, I happen to know
that Caroline Crale was guiltyour'
"It's true. Whether I did right in withholding what
I knew at the time I cannot be sure, but I
withhold it. But you must take it from me, quite
definitely, that I
Caroline Crale was guilty."
Angela Warren's flat overlooked Regent's
Park. Here, on this spring day, a soft air wafted
in through the open window and one might have had the illusion
that one was in the country if it had not been for the steady
menacing roar of the traffic passing below.
Poirot turned from the window as the door opened and
Angela Warren came into the room.
It was not the first time he had seen her. He had
availed himself of the opportunity to attend a
lecture she had given at the Royal
Geographical. It had been, he considered, an
excellent lecture. Dry, perhaps, from the view of
popular appeal. Miss Warren had an excellent
delivery; she neither paused nor hesitated for a
word. She did not
104 Murder In Retrospect repeat herself. The tones of her voice were clear and not unmelodious.
She made no concessions to romantic appeal or
love of adventure. There was very little human interest
in the lecture. It was an admirable recital of
concise facts, adequately illustrated
by excellent slides, and with intelligent deductions
from the facts recited. Dry, precise, clear,
lucid, highly technical.
The soul of Hercule Poirot approved. Here,
he considered, was an orderly mind.
Now that he saw her at close quarters he
realized that Angela Warren might easily have been
a very handsome woman. Her features were regular,
though severe. She had finely marked dark brows,
clear, intelligent brown eyes, a fine, pale
skin. She had very square shoulders and a slightly
There was certainly about her no suggestion of the
little fipig who cried, "Wee-wee." But on the right
and puckering the skin, was that healed scar. The
right eye was slightly distorted, the corner pulled
downward by it, but no one would have realized that the sight
of that eye was destroyed. It seemed to Hercule
Poirot almost certain that she had lived with that disability so long that she was now completely
unconscious of it. And it occurred to him that of the
five people in whom he had become interested as a
result of his investigations, those who might have been
said to start with the fullest advantages were not those who
had actually wrested the most success and happiness from
Elsa, who might have been said to have started with all
advantages-youth, beauty, riches-had done
worst. She was like a flower overtaken by untimely
frost--still in bud but without life. Cecilia
Williams, to outward appearances, had no assets
of which to boast. Nevertheless, to Poirot's eye, there was
no despondency there and no sense of failure.
Miss Williams's life had been interesting to her
--she was still interested in people and events. She had that
enormous mental and moral advantage of a strict
Victorian upbringing, denied to us in these
Murder In Retrospect 105 done her duty in
that station of life to which it had pleased God to call
her, and that assurance encased her in an armor
impregnable to the slings and darts of envy, discontent,
and regret. She had her memories, her small
pleasures, made possible by stringent economies,
and sufficient health and vigor to enable her still to be interested in life.
Now, in Angela Warren-that young creature
handicapped by disfigurement and its consequent
humiliations --Poirot believed he saw a spirit
strengthened by its necessaiThat fight for confidence and
assurance. The undisciplined schoolgirl had
given place to a vital and forceful woman, a
woman of considerable mental power and gifted with
abundant energy to accomplish ambitious
purposes. She was a woman, Poirot felt
sure, both happy and successful. Her life was
full and vivid and eminently enjoyable.
She was not, incidentally, the type of woman that
Poirot really liked. Though admiring the
clear-cut precision of her mind, she had just a
sufficient nuance of the
about her to alarm him as a mere man. His taste had
always been for the flamboyant and extravagant.
With Angela Warren it was easy to come to the point of
his visit. There was no subterfuge. He merely
recounted Carla Lemarchant's interview with him.
Angela Warren's severe face lighted up
"Little Carla? She is over here? I would like to see her so much."
"You have not kept in touch with her?"
"Hardly as much as I should have done. I was a
schoolgirl at the time she went to Canada, and I
realized, of course, that in a year or two she would
have forgotten me. Of late years an occasional
present at Christmas has been the only link between
us. I imagined that she would, by now, be completely
immersed in the Canadian atmosphere and that her
future would lie over there. Better so, under the
Poirot said, "One might think so, certainly. A
change of name--a change of scene. A new life.
But it was not to be so easy as'that." And he then
told of Carla's engage
ment, the discovery she had made upon coming of age, and
her motive in coming to England.
Angela Warren listened quietly, her disfigured
cheek resting on one hand. She betrayed no emotion
during the recital, but as Poirot finished, she said
quietly, "Good for Carla."
Hercule Poirot was startled. It was the first time that
he had met with this reaction. He said, "You
approve, Miss Warren?"
"Certainly. I wish her every success. Anything I
can do to help, I will. I feel guilty, you know, that I haven't attempted anything myself."
"Then you think that there is a possibility that she is
right in her views?"
Angela Warren said sharply, "Of course she's
right. Caroline didn't do it. I've always known
"You surprise me very much indeed,
mademoiselle," Poirot murmured.
"Everybody else I have spoken to--was
She cut in sharply. "You mustn't go by that. Ive no
doubt that the circumstantial evidence is
overwhelming. My own conviction is based on knowledge--knowledge
of my sister. I just know quite simply and definitely
have killed anyone."
"Can you say that with certainty of any human
"Probably not in most cases. I agree that the
human animal is full of curious surprises.
But in Caroline's case there were special
reasons-reasons which I have a better chance of
appreciating than anyone else could." She touched
her damaged cheek. "You see this? You've
probably heard about it." Poirot nodded. "Caroline did that. That s why I m sure-I
she did not do murder."
"It would not be a convincing argument to most people."
"No, it would be the opposite. It was actually used
in that way, I believe. As evidence that Caroline
had a violent and ungovernable temperl Because she had
conime as a baby, learned men argued that she would be
i equally capable of poisoning an unfaithful
husband." Poirot said, I, at least,
appreciated the difference..A i sudden fit of
ungovernable rage does not lead you to ab. stract
a poison first and then use it deliberately on the
nlfollowing day." were'] Angela Warren waved
an impatient hand. "That's not what I
mean at all. I must try and make it plain to you.
upposing that you are a person of normally affectionate
('and kindly disposition, but that you are also liable
to Tintense jealousy. And supposing that during the
years of your life when control is most difficult
you do, in a fit of r-age, come near to committing
what is, in effect, murder.
nhink of the awful shock, the horror, the remorse that
izes upon you.
"If you are a sensitive person like Caroline that horror d remorse will never quite leave you. It never
left her. were don't suppose I was consciously
aware of it at the time,
3 but looking back I recognize it perfectly.
Caro was haunted, continually haunted, by the fact that
she had injured me. That knowledge never left her in peace.
It colored all her actions. It explained her
attitude to me. bstothing was too good for me. In her
eyes, I must always come first. Half the quarrels
she had with Amyas were on my account."
Miss Warren paused, then went on. "It was very
bad for me, of course. I got horribly
spoiled. But that's neither here nor there. We're
discussing the effect on Caroline. The result of that
impulse to violence was a lifelong ab:
horrence of any further act of the same kind. Caro
was watching herself, always in fear that something kind might
happen again. And she took her own of guarding against
it. One of those ways was a great of language. She
felt (and I think, psyuite truly) that if she were
violent enough would have no temptation to violence in She
found by experience that the method worked. "That's why
I've heard Caro say things like, 'I'd like to
108 Murder In Retrospect cut so and so in
pieces and boil him slowly in oil." And she'd say to me, or to Amyas, "If you go on
annoyifig me I shall murder you." In the same
way she quarreled easily and violently. She
recognized, I think, the impulse to violence that
there was in her nature, and she deliberately gave
it an outlet that way. She and Amyas used to have the
most fantastic and lurid quarrels."
Hercule Poirot nodded. "Yes, there was evidence
of that. They quarreled like cat and dog, it was said."
Angela Warren said, "Exactly. That's what is
so stupid and misleading about evidence. Of course
Caro andAmyas quarreledl Of course they said
bitter and outrageous and cruel things to each otherl
What nobody appreciates is that they
quarreling. But they didl Amyas enjoyed it, too.
They were that kind of couple. They both of them liked
drama and emotional scenes. Most men don't.
They like peace. But Amyas was an artist. He
liked shouting and threatening and generally being outrageous.
It was like letting off steam to him. He was the kind of
man who when he loses his collar stud bellows the
house down. It sounds very odd, I know, but living that
way with continual rows and makings up was Amyas's and
Caroline's idea of funl"
She made an impatient gesture. "If they'd only not hustled me away and let me give
evidence, I'd have told them that." Then she shrugged
her shoulders. "But I don't suppose they ,wd have
believed me. And, anyway, then it wouldn t have been
as clear in my mind as it is now. It was the kind of
thing I knew but hadn't thought about and certainly had
never dreamed of putting into words."
She looked across at Poirot. "You do see what
I mean?" He nodded vigorously. "I see
perfectly, and I realize the absolute rightness of
what you have said. There are people to whom agreement is
monotony. They require the
stimulant of dissension to create drama in their
"May I ask you, Miss Warren, what were your own
Mder In Retrospect 109 ings at the time?"
Angela Warren sighed. "Mostly bewilderment and
hell greater-than sness, I think. It seemed a
fantastic nightmare. Caroline was arrested very soon
--about three days afterward, I think, I can still
remember my indignation, my dumb fury-and, of
course, my childish faith that it was just a silly
mistake, that it would be all right. Caro was chiefly
perturbed about me-she wanted me kept right away from itall as far as possible. She got Miss
Williams to take me away to some relations almost
at once. The police had no objection. And then,
when it was decided that my evidence would not be needed,
arrangements were made for me to go to school abroad.
"I hated going, of course. But it was explained
to me that Caro had me terribly on her mind and that the
only way I could help her was by going."
She paused. Then she said, So I went to Munich.
I was there when--when the verdict was given. They never
let me go to see Caro. Caro wouldn't have it. That's
the only time, I think, when she failed in understanding."
"You cannot be sure of that, Miss Warren. To visit
someone dearly loved in a prison might
make a terrible impression on a young, sensitive
"Possibly." Angela Warren got up. She
said, "After the verdict, when she had been condemned,
my sister wrote me a letter. I have never shown it
to anyone. I think I ought to show it to you now. It may
help you to understand the kind of person Caroline was.
If you like, you may take it to show to Carla, also."
She went to the door, then turning back she said,
"Come with me. There is a portrait of Caroline in
For the second time, Poirot stood gazing up at a portrait.
As a painting, Caroline Crale's portrait was
mediocre. But Poirot looked at it with interest-it
was not its artistic value that interested him.
He saw a long, oval face, a gracious line
of jaw and a ,sweet, slightly timid expression.
It was a face uncertain
110 Murder In Retrmpect of itself, emotional,
with a withdrawn, hidden beauty. It lacked the
forcefulness and vitality of her daughter's face --that
energy and joy of life Carla Lemarchant had
doubtless inherited from her father. This was a less
positive creature. Yet, looking at
the painted face, Hercule Poirot understood why
an imaginative man like Quentin Fogg had not
been able to forget her.
Angela Warren stood at his side again-a letter in
her hand. She said quietly, "Now that you have seen
what she was like, read her letter."
He unfolded it carefully and read what Caroline
Crale had written sixteen years ago:
My darling little Angeta:
You will hear bad news and you wilt
but what I want to impress upon you is that it is all, all right. 1 have never told you lies and I
don't now when I say that I am actually
happy-that I feel an essential rightness and a peace
that I have never known before. It's all right, darling;
it's all right. Don't look back and regret and
grieve for me--go on with your
and succeed. You can, I know. It's all, all right,
darling, and I m going to Amyas. I haven t the
least doubt that we shall be together. I couldn't have lived
without him. Do this one thing for me--be happy. Fve
happy. One has to pay one's debts. It's
lovely tosteel peaceful.
Your loving sister,
Hercule Poirot read it through twice. Then he
handed it back. He said, "That is a very beautiful
letter, made-moiselle--and a very remarkable one. A very
"Caroline," said Angela Warren, "was a very
"Yes, an unusual mind. You take it that this letter
indicates innocence?" "Of course it doesl"
"It does not say so explicitly."
"Because Caro would know that I'd never dream of her
were beffng guiltyl"
were Perhaps-perhaps-- But it might be taken another
were iiln the sense that she was guilty and that in
expiating her were crime she wall find peace. It
fitted in, he thought, with the description of her in
[court. And he experienced in this moment the strongest
were doubts he had yet felt of the course to which he
had corn[ conmitted himself. Everything so far
had pointed nnswervccingly to Caroline Crale's
guilt. Now even her own words testified against her.
On the other side was only the unshaken conviction of
Angela Warren. Angela had known her well,
undoubtedly, but might not her certainty be the
fanatical loyalty of an adolescent girl,
up in arms for a dearly loved sister?
I As though she had read his thoughts Angela said,
"No, conM. Poirot--I
Caroline wasnt guilty."
, Porot said brailleskly, The
bon Dteu knows I do not want ito shake you on that point. But
let us be practical. You say your sister was not
guilty. Very well, then,
Angela nodded thoughtfully. That is difficult, I
agree," she said. "I suppose that, as Caroline
said, Amyas committed suicide."
"Is that likely from what you know of his character?" "Very
"But you do not say, as in the first case, that you
it is impossible?"
"No, because, as I said just now, most people
do impossible things--that is to say, things that seem out
of character. But I presume, if you know them
intimately, it wouldn't be out of character."
"You knew your brother-in-law well?"
"Yes, but not like I knew Caro. It seems to me
quite fantastic that Amyas should have killed himself, but I
have done so. In fact, he
have done so."
"You cannot see any other explanation?" Angela accepted the suggestion calmly, but not without
a certain stimng of interest. "Oh, I see what
you mean. I've never really considered that
possibility. You mean one of the other people kilffed him?
That it was a deliberate cold-blooded murder?"
"It might have been, might it not?"
"Yes, it might have been. But i certainly seems
"More unlikely than suicide?"
"That's difficult to say. On the face of it, there
was no reason for suspecting anybody
else. There isn't now when I look back."
"All the same, let us consider the possibility.
Who of those intimately concerned would you say was-shaUs we say the most likely person?"
Let me think. Well, I didn't kill him.
And the Elsa creature certainly didn't. She was
mad with rage when he died. Who else was there?
Meredith Blake? He was always very devoted
to Caroline, quite a tame cat about the house. I
give him a motive in a way. In a book he
might have wanted to get Amyas out of the way so that he
himself could marry Caroline. But he could have achieved that just as well by letting Amyas go off with Elsa and then
in due time consoling Caroline. Besides, I really
Meredith as a murderer. Too mild and too
cautious. Who else was there?"
"Miss Williams? Philip Blake?"
Poirot suggested. Angela's grave face
relaxed into a smile. "Miss Williams? One
can't really make oneself believe that one's governess
could commit a murderl Miss Williams
was always so unyielding and so full of rectitude."
She paused a minute and then went on. "She was
devoted to Caroline, of course. Would have done
anything for her. And she hated Amyas. She was a
and disliked men. Is that enough for murder? Surely not."
"It would hardly seem so," agreed Poirot.
Angela went on. "Philip Blake?" She was
silent for some
Mm'der In Retrospect 113 few moments.
Then she said quietly, "I think, you know, if
we're just talking of
likelihoods, he's the
most likely person."
Poirot said, "You interest me very much, Miss Warren. May I ask why you say that?"
"Nothing at all definite. But from what I
remember of him, I should say he was a person of rather
"And a limited imagination predisposes you to tourder?" [were "It might lead you to take a crude
way of settling your [dis[ difficulties. Men of
that type get a certain satisfaction from
I Z action of some kind or other. Murder is a
very crude busiIness,
don't you think so?"
- ,,,, B Yes-I think you are right. It is
definitely a point of
view, that. But, all the same, Miss Warren, there
must be more to it than that. What motive could Philip
Blake POASS-IBLY have had?"
ngela Warren did not answer at once. She
down at the floor.
Hercule Poirot said, "He was Amyas
Crale's best friend, was he not?"
"But there is something in your mind, Miss Warren.
Something that you have not yet told me. were the two men
rivals, perhaps, over the girl--over Elsa?" Angela Warren shook her laead. "Oh, no, not
Philip." "What is there, then?"
Angela Warren said slowly, "Do you know the way that
things suddenly come back to you-after years, perhaps.
I'll explain what I mean. Somebody told me
a story once, when I was eleven. I saw no
point in that story whatsoever. It didn't worry
me-it just passed straight over my head. I don't
believe I ever, as they say, thought of it again. But
about two years ago, sitting in the stalls
at a revue, that story came back to me, and I was
so surprised that
I actually saad aloud, Oh,
I see the point of that silly
story about the rice pudding." And yet there had been
114 Murder In Retrospect
direct allusion on the same lines--only some
fun sailing rather near the wind."
Poirot said, "I understand what you mean,
"Then you will understand what I am going to tell you. I was once staying at a hotel. As I walked along
a passage one of the bedroom doors opened and a
woman I knew came out. It was not her bedroom-and
she registered the fact plainly on her face when
she saw me.
"And I knew then the meaning of the expression I had
once seen on Caroline's face when at
Alderbury she came out of Philip Blake's
room one night."
She leaned forward, stopping Poirot's words. "I
had no idea at the
you understand. I
things-girls of the age I was usually do--but I
didn't connect them with reality. Caroline coming out of
Philip Blake's bedroom was just Caroline coming out
of Philip Blake's bedroom to me. It might have
been Miss Williams's room or my room.
But what I
notice was the expression on her face--a queer
expression that I didn't know and couldn't understand. I
didn't understand it until, as I have told you, the
night in Paris when I saw that same expression on another woman's face."
Poirot said slowly, "But what you tell me,
Miss Warren, is sufficiently astonishing. From
Philip Blake himself I got the impression that
he disliked your sister and always had."
"I know," Angela said. "I can't explain it, but
there it is."
Poirot nodded slowly. Already, in his interview with
Philip Blake, he had felt
vaguely that something did not ring true. That overdone
animosity against Caroline; it had not, somehow, been
And words and phrases from his conversation with Meredith
Blake came back to him. "Very upset when
Amyas married-did not go near them for over a
Had Philip, then, always been in love with
Caroline? And had his love, when she chose
Amyas, turned to bitter
Mutd In Retrospect 119 and hate?
Yes, Philip had been too vehement, too
biased. Poirot visualized him thoughtfully-the
cheerful, prosperous man iwith his golf and his comfortable
house. What had Philip really felt sixteen
Angela Warren was speaking. "I don't understand it. see, I've no expermnce m love affairs-they haven't come my way. I've told you this for
what it's worth in case it might have a bearing on
THE NA-ARAT-RWill oFrom PmiJv BLAKE
(covering letter received with manuscript)
Dear M. Poirot:
I am fulfilling my promise and herewith
find enclosed an account of the events relating to the
death of Amyas Crale. After such a lapse of time
I am bound to point out that my memories may not be
strictly accurate, but I have put down what
occurred to the best of my recollection.
NOTES ON PROGRESS OF EVENTS
LEADING UP TO MUP.DF.G
OF AMYAS CRALE ON 18THIS SEPT.
My friendship with deceased dates back to a very early
period. His home and mine were next door to each
other m the country and our families were friends.
Amyas Crale was a little over two yea older
than I was. We played together as boys, in the
holidays, though we wire not at the same school. From the point of view of my long knowledge of the man I
feel myself particularly qualified to testify as
to his character and general outlook on life. And I will
say this straightaway--to anyone who knew Amyas
Crale well, the notion of his committing suicide
is quite ridiculous. Crale would never have taken his
own life. He was far too fond of livingl The
contention of the defense at the trial that
Crale was obsessed by conscience, and took poison
in a fit of remorse is utterly absurd.
Crale, I should say, had very little conscience, and cer
tainly not a morbid one. Moreover, he and his
wife were on bad terms and I don't think he would
have had any undue scruples about breaking up what
was, to him, a very unsatisfactory married life.
He was prepared to look after conher financial
welfare and that of the child of the marriage, land I am
sure would have done so generously. He was a to very
generous man, and altogether a warmhearted and to lovable
person. Not only was he a great painter, but he was
ialso a man whose friends were devoted to him. As far as
know he had no enemies.
I had also known Caroline Crale for many years.
I knew her before her marriage, when she used to come
and stay at Alderbury. She was then a somewhat neurotic girl, subject to uncontrollable
outbursts of temper, not without attraction, but
unquestionably a difficult person to live with.
She showed her devotion to Amyas almost immediately.
He, I think, was not really very much in love with her.
But they were frequently thrown together. She was, as
I say, attractive, and they eventually
became engaged. Crale s friends were apprehensive
about the marriage, as they felt that Caroline was quite
unsuited to him.
This caused a certain amount of strain in the first few
years between Crale's wife and Crale's friends, but
Amyas was a loyal friend and was not disposed to give up
his old friends at the bidding of his wife. After a few
years he and I were on the same old terms and I was
a frequent visitor at Alderbury. I may
add that I stood godfather to the little girl, Carla.
This proves, I think, that Amyas considered me his
best friend, and it gives me authority to speak for a
man who can no longer speak for himself.
To come to the actual events of which I have been asked
to write, I arrived down at Alderbury (so I
see by an old diary) five days before the crime.
That is, on September 13th. I was conscious at
once of a certain tension in the atmosphere. There was also staying in the house Miss Elsa Greer, whom
Amyas was painting at the time. It was the first time I
had seen Miss Greer in the flesh,
but I had been aware of her existence for some time.
Amyas had raved about her to me a month
previously. He had met, he said, a marvelous
girl. He talked about her so
enthusiastically" was that I said to him jokingly,. ,,"
old boy, or you 11 be losing your head again. He
told me not to be a bloody fool. He was painting
the girl; he'd no personal interest in her. I
said, "Tell that to the marinesl I've heard you say
that before." He said, "This time it's different," to which I
answered somewhat cynically, "It always
isl"cceaAmyas then looked quite worried and
anxious. He said, You don t understand. She's just
a girl. Not much more than a child." He added that she
had very modern views tnd was absolutely free from
old-fashioned prejudices. He said, "She's
honest and natural and absolutely fearlessl" I
thought to myself, though I didn't say so, that Amyas
had certainly got it badly this time. A few
weeks later I heard comments from other people. ,It was
said that the Greer girl was absolutely infatuated.
Somebody else said that it was a bit thick of Amyas, considering how young the girl was, whereupon
somebody else snickered and said that Elsa Greer
knew her way about, all right. There was a question as
to what Crale's wife thought about it, and the
significant reply that she must be used to that sort
of thing by now, to which someone demurred by saying
they'd heard that she was jealous as hell and led
Crale such an impossible life that any man would
be justified in having a fling from time to time. I mention
all this because I think it is important that the state
of affairs before I got down there should be fully
realized. I was interested to see the girl. She was
remarkably good- looking and very attractive, and I
was, I must admit, maliciously amused to note
that Caroline was cutting up very rough indeed. Amyas
Crale himself was less lighthearted than usual.
Though to anyone who did not know him well, his manner
would have appeared much as usual. I, wteao knew
Murder In Retrospect 119 so intimately,
noted at once various signs of strain, uncertain
temper, fits of moody abstraction, general
irritability of manner.
Although he was always inclined to be moody when enainting,
the picture he was at work upon did not account tirelyfor the strain he showed. Hewas pleased to see
me and said as soon as we were alone, Thank goodness
you've turned up, Phil. Living in a house with
four women is enough to send any man clean off his
chump. Between them all, they'll send me into a
It was certainly an uncomfortable atmosphere.
Caroline, as I said, was obviously cutting up
rough about the whole thing. In a polite, well-bred
way, she was ruder to Elsa than one would believe
possible-without a single actually offensive word.
Elsa herself was openly and flagrantly rude
to Caroline. She was top dog and she knew it, and
no scruples of good breeding restrained her from overt
The result was that Grale spent most of his time
scrapping with the girl Angela when he wasn't
painting. They were usually on affectionate terms,
though they teased and disfought a good deal. But on this
occasion there was an edge m everything Amyas said or
did, and the two of them really lost their tempers with
each other. The fourth member of the party was the
governess. "A sour-faced hag," Amyas called
her. "She ha-tes me like poison. Sits there with
her lips set together, disapproving of me without
stopping." It was then that he said, "Damn all womenl If a
man is to have any peace he must steer clear of
"You oughtn't to have married," I said. "You're the
sort of man who ought to have kept clear of
He replied that it was too late to talk about that now.
He added that no doubt Caroline would be only too
glad to get rid of him. That was the first indication I
had that something unusual was in the wind.
i I said, "What's all this? Is this business with the
Elsa serious, then?" He said with a sort of
groan, "She z's
lovely, isn't she? Sometimes I wish I'd never
I said, "Look here, old boy, you must take a
hold on yourself. You don't want to get tied up with
any more women." He looked at me and laughed.
He said, "It's all very well for you to talk. I
can't let women alone-simply can't do it-and if I
could they wouldn't let me alonel" Then he shrugged
those great shoulders of his, grinned at me, and said, "Oh, well, it will all pan out in the end, 1
expect. And you must admit the picture is
He was referring to the portrait he was doing of
Elsa, and, although I had very little technical
knowledge of painting, even I could see that it was going to be a
work of especaal power.
While he was painting, Amyas was a different man.
Although he would growl, groan, frown, swear
extravagantly and sometimes hurl his brushes
away, he was really intensely happy.
It was only when he came back to the house for meals
that the hostile atmosphere between the women got him
down. That hostility came to a head on September
17th. We had had an embarrassing lunch. Elsa
had been par- ticularly-reaUy, I think
is the only word for it! She had ignored Caroline
pointedly, persistently address. ing the conversation
to Amyas as though he and she were alone in the room.
Caroline had talked lightly and gaily to the rest of
us, cleverly contriving so that several perfectly
innocent-sounding remarks should have a sting. She hadn't
Elsa Greer's scornful honesty--with Caroline
everything was oblique, suggested rather than said.
Things came to a head after lunch in the drawing-room just as we were finishing coffee. I had commented on a
carved head in highly polished beechwood--a very
curious thing--and Caroline said, "That is the work of a
young Norwegian sculptor. Amyas and
I admire his work very much. We hope to go and see
him next summer." That calm assumption of
possession was too much for Elsa. She was never one
to let a challenge pass. She waited a minute
or two and then she spoke in her clear, rather
She said, "This would be a lovely room if it were
properly fixed. It's got far too much
furniture in it. When I'm living here I shall
take all the rubbish out and just leave one or two good
pieces. And I shall have copper-colored curtains,
I think-so that the setting sun will just catch them through that
big western window." She turned to me and said,
"Don't you think that would be rather lovely?"
I didn't have time to answer. Caroline spoke and
her voice was soft and silky and what I can only
describe as dangerous. She said, "Are you thinking
of buying this place, Elsa?"
Elsa said, "It won't be necessary for me to buy it."
Caroline said, "What do you mean?" And there was no softness in her voice now. It was hard and
metallic. Elsa laughed. She said, "Must we
pretend? Come, now, Caroline, you know very well what I meanl"
Caroline said, "I've no idea."
Elsa said to that, "Don't be such an ostrich. It's
no good pretending you don't see and know all about it.
Amyas and I care for each other. This isn't your
home. It's h
And after we're married I shall live here with himl"
Caroline said, "I think you're crazy."
Elsa said, "Oh, no, I'm not, my dear, and you
know it. It would be much simpler if we were honest with
each other. Amyas andeaI love each other; you've
seen that clearly enough. There s only one decent
thing for you to do. You've got to give him his
Caroline said, "I don t believe a word of what
you are saying."
But her voice was unconvincing. Elsa had got under
her guard, all right.
And at that minute Amyas Crale came into the
room, and Elsa said with a laugh, "If you don't
believe me, ask him."
And Caroline said, "I will." She didn't pause
at all. She said, "Amyas, Elsa says you want to marry her.
Is this i true?"
Poor old Amyas. I felt sorry for
him. It makes a man feel a fool to have a scene
of that kind forced upon him. He went crimson and
started blustering. He turned on Elsa and asked
her why the devil she couldn't have held her tongue.
Caroline said, "Then it
He didn't say anything, just stood there passing his
finger round inside the neck of his shirt. He used
to do that as a kid when he got into a jam of any
kind. He said --and he tried to make the words sound
dignified and authoritative-and of course couldn't
manage it, poor devil,
don't want to discuss it."
Caroline said, "But we're going to discuss it!"
Elsa chipped in and said, "I think it's only
fair to Caroline that she should be told."
"Is it true, Amyas?". Caroline. said very
a bffment ashamed of hlmselLike Men do when women pin them down
in a corner.
She said, "Answer me, please. I've
got to know."
He flung up his head then, rather the way a bull
does in the bull ring. He snapped out, "It's
true enough, but I don't want to discuss it now."
And he turned and strode out of the room. I went after
him. I didn't want to be left with the women. I
caught up with him on the terrace. He was swearing.
I never knew a man to swear more heartily. Then
"Why couldn't she hold her tongue? Why the devil
couldn't she hold her tongue? Now the fat's in the
fire. And I've got tofinish that picture-do you
hear, Phil? It's the best thing Ive done. The
best thing Ive ever done in my
And a couple of fool women want to muck it up between
them!" Then he calmed down a little and said women had
no sense of proportion.
I couldn't help smiling a little. I said, "Well,
dash it all, old boy, you have brought this on yourself."
"Don't I know it?" he said, and groaned. Then
he added, "But you must admit, Phil, that a man
couldn't be blamed for losing his head about her. Even Caroline ought to
I asked him what would happen if Caroline got
and refused to give him a divorce.
now he had gone off into a fit of abstraction. I
repeated the remark, and he said absently,
"Caroline would never be vindictive. You don't
understand, old boy."
"There's the child," I pointed out.
He took me by the arm. "Phil, old boy, you
mean well, but don't go on croaking like a raven.
I can manage my affairs. Everything will turn out
all right. You'll see if it doesn't."
That was Amyas all over--an absolutely
unjustified optimist. He said now, cheerfully,
"To hell with the whole pack of them!"
I don't know whether we would have said anything more, hut
a few minutes later Caroline swept out on the
terrace. She had a hat on-a queer, flopping,
dark-brown hat, rather attractive.
She said in an absolutely ordinary, everyday
voice, "Take off that paint-stained coat,
Amyas. We're going over to Meredith's to tea-don't you remember?" He stared, stammered a bit as he said, "Oh,
I'd for*gotten. Yes, of
c-c-course we are."
"Then," she said, "go andtry and make yourself look
less like a rag-and-bone man.
Although her voice was quite natural, she didn't
look at him. She moved over toward a bed of
dahlias and began picking off some of the overblown
Amyas turned around slowly and went into the house.
Caroline talked to me. She talked a good deal.
About the chances of the weather lasting. And whether there might
he mackerel about and, if so, Amyas and Angela
and I might like to go fishing. She was really amazing.
I've got to hand it to her.
But I think, myself, that that showed the sort of woman
she was. She had enormous strength of will and
complete command over herself. I don't know whether
124 Murder In Retrospect up her mind
to kill him then, but I shouldn't be surprised. And
she was capable of making her plans carefully and
unemotionally, with an absolutely clear and ruthless
Caroline Crale was a very dangerous woman. I
ought to have realized then that she wasn't prepared to take this thing lying down. But, like a fool, I
thought that she had made up her mind to accept the
inevitable--or else possibly she thought that if she
carried on exactly as usual Amyas might
change his mind.
Presently the others came out. Elsa looking
defiant, but at the same time triumphant.
Caroline took no notice of her. Angela
really saved the situation. She came out arguing with
Miss Williams that she wasn't going to change
her skirt for anyone. It was quite all right--good enough for
darling old Meredith, anyway--he never noticed
We got off at last. Caroline walked with
Angela. And I walked with Amyas. And Elsa
walked by herself, smiling.
I didn t admire her, myself-too violent a
type-but I have to admit that she looked incredibly
beautiful that afternoon. Women do when they we got what
I can't remember the events of that afternoon clearly at
all. It's all blurred. I remember old
Merry coming out to meet us. I think we walked around
the garden first. I remember having a long discussion
with Angela about the training of terriers for ratting. She ate an incredible lot of apples,
too, and tried to persuade me to do so, too.
When we got back to the house, tea was going on under
the big cedar tree. Merry, I remember, was
looking very upset. I suppose either Caroline or
Amyas had told him something. He was looking
doubtfully at Caroline, and then he stared at
Elsa. The old boy looked thoroughly upset.
Of course, Caroline liked to have Meredith on a
string more or less--the devoted, Platonic friend who
would never, never go too far. She was that kind of
After tea Meredith had a hurried word with me. He
said, "Look here, Phil, Amyas
do this thingl"
I said, "Make no mistake, he's going to do
"He can't leave his wife and child and go off with this
girl. He's years older than she is. She can't
be more than eighteen."
I said to him that Miss Greer was a fully
sophisticated twenty. He said, "Anyway, that's
under age. She can't know what she's doing."
Poor old Meredith. Always the chivalrous pucka
sahib. I said, "Don't worry, old boy.
knows what she s doing
she likes it!"
That's all we had the chance of saying. I thought to myself
that probably Merry felt disturbed at the thought of
Caroline's being a deserted wife. Once the
divorce was through she might expect her faithful
Dobbin to marry her. I had an idea that hopeless
devotion was really far more in his line. I must confess
that that side of it amused
Curiously enough, I remember very little about our
visit to Meredith's stink room. He enjoyed showing
people his hobby. Personally I always found it very boring.
I suppose I was in there with the rest of them when he
gave a dissertation on the efficacy of coniine, but
I don't remember it. And I didn't see
Caroline pinch the stuff. As I've said, she was a
very adroit woman. I do remember Meredith reading
aloud the passage from Plato describing
Socrates's death. Very boring, I thought it.
Classics always did bore me.
There's nothing much more I can remember about that day. Amyas and Angela had a first-class row,
I know, and the rest of us rather welcomed it. It avoided
other difficulties. Angela rushed off to bed with a
final vituperative outburst. She said, A,
she'd pay him out; B, she wished he were dead;
C, she hoped he'd die of leprosy-it would
serve him right; D, she wished a sausage would
stick to his nose, like in the fairy story, and never
come off. When she'd gone we all laughed-we
couldn't help it, it was such a funny mixture.
Caroline went up to bed immediately afterward. Miss
Williams disappeared after her pupil. Amyas and
Elsa went off together into the garden. It was clear that
I wasn't wanted. I went for a stroll by myself.
It was a lovely night.
I came down late the following morning. There was
no one in the dining-room. Funny, the things you do
remember. I remember the taste of the kidneys and
bacon I ate quite well. They were very good kidneys.
Afterward I wandered out looking for everybody. I went
outside, didn't see anybody, smoked a
cigarette, encountered Miss Williams running
about looking for Angela, who had played truant as
usual when she ought to have been mending a torn
frock. I went back into the hall and realized that Amyas and Caroline were having a set-to in the
library. They were talking very loud. I heard her
say, "You and your womenl I'd like to kill you. Some
day I will kill you." Amyas said, "Don't be a
fool, Caroline." And she said, "I mean it,
Well, I didn't want to overhear any more. I
went out again. I wandered along the terrace the other
way and came across Elsa.
She was sitting on one of the long seats. The seat was
directly under the library window, and the window was
open. I should imagine that there wasn't much she had
missed of what was going on inside. When she saw
me she got up as cool as a cucumber and came
toward me. She was smiling.
She took my arm and said, "Isn't it a lovely
morning?" It was a lovely morning for her, all
rightl Rather a cruel girl. No, I think merely
honest and lacking in imagination. What she wanted
herself was the only thing that she could see.
We'd been standing on the terrace, talklng for about
five minutes when I heard the hbrary door bang
and Amyas Crale came out. He was very red in the
He caught hold of Elsa unceremoniously by the shoulder. He said, "Come on; time for you to sit. I
want to get on with that picture."
She said, "All right. I'll just go up and get a
There's a chilly wind." She went into the house.
I wondered if Amyas would say anything to me, but
didn't say much. Just, "These womenl"
I said, "Cheer up, old boyl"
Then neither of us said anything till Elsa came out
of the house again.
They went off together down to the Battery Garden. I
went into the house. Caroline was standing in the hall I
don't think she even noticed me. It was a way of
hers at times. She'd seem to go right away--to get
inside herself as it were. She just murmured something.
Not to me--to herf. I caught, the words: "It's too
That's what she said. Then she walked past me and
upstairs, still without seeming to see me--like a person
intent on some inner vision. I think myself (i've
no authority for saying this, you understand) that she went up
to get the stuff, and that it was then she decided to do what
she did do.
And just at that moment the telephone rang. In some
houses one would wait for the servants to answer it, but I was so often at Alderbury that I acted more or
less as one of the family. I picked up the receiver.
It was my brother Meredith s voice that answered.
He was very upset. He explained that he had been
into his laboratory and that the coniine bottle was
I don't need to go again over all the things I know
now I ought to have done. The thing was so startling, and I was
foolish enough to be taken aback. Meredith was dithering
a good bit at the other end. I heard someone on the
stairs and I just told him sharply to come over at
I myself went down to meet him. In case you don
t know the lay of the land, the shortest way from one
estate to the other was by rowing across a small creek.
I went down the path to where the boats were kept by a
small jetty. To do so I passed under the wall of the
Battery Garden. I could hear Elsa and Amyas
talking together as he painted. They sounded very cheerful and
Amyas said it was an amazingly hot day (so it
hot for September), and Elsa said that sitting where
she was, poised on the battlements, there was a cold wind blowing in from the sea. And then she said,
horribly stiff from posing. Can't I have a rest,
darling?" And I heard Amyas cry out, "Not on
your lifel Stick it! You're a tough girl. And this
is going good, I tell you." I just heard Elsa
say, "Brute," and laugh, as I went out of
Meredith was just rowing himself across from the other side. I
waited for him. He tied up the boat and came up
the steps. He was looking very white and worried. He
said to me, "Your bead's better than mine,
Philip. What ought I to do? That stuffs
I said, "Are you absolutely sure about this?"
Meredith, you see, was always rather a vague kind of
chap. Perhaps that's why I didn't take it as
seriously as I ought to have done. And he said he was quite
sure. The bottle had been full yesterday afternoon.
I said, "And you've absolutely
idea who pinched it?" He said none whatever and asked
me what I thought. Could it have been one of the
servants? I said I supposed it might have been,
but it seemed unlikely to me. He ab ways
kept the door locked, didn't he? Always, he said, and then began a rigmarole about having found the
window a few inches open at the bottom. Someone
might have got in that way.
"A chance burglar?" I asked. "It seems to me,
Meredith, that there are some very nasty
He asked what did I really think? And I said,
if he was sure he wasn t making a mistake,
that probably Caroline had taken it to poison
Elsa with-or that, alternatively, Elsa had
taken it to get Caroline out of the way and straighten the
path of true love.
Meredith twittered a bit. He said it was absurd
and melodramatic and couldn't be true. I said,
"Well, the stuff's gone. What's
explanation?" He hadn't any, of course.
Actually thought just as I did, but didn't want
to face the fact.
He said again, "What are we to do?"
I said, stupid fool that I was, "We
must think it over carefully. Either you d better
announce your loss, straight out when everybody's
there, or else you'd better get Caro- line alone and tax her with it. If you re convinced
has nothing to do with it, adopt the same tactics for
Elsa." He said, "% gl like thatt She
couldn't have taken it." I said I wouldn t put it
past her. We were walking up the path to the house as
we talked. As we were rounding the Battery Garden
again I heard Caroline's voice. I thought perhaps a
three-handed row was going on, but actually it was
Angela that they were discussing. Caro- line was
protesting. She said, "It s very hard on the
girl." And Amyas made some impatient
rejoinder. Then the door to the garden opened just as we
came abreast of it. Amyas looked a little taken
aback at seeing us. Caroline was just coming out. She
said, Hullo, Meredith. We've been discussing the
,question of Angela's going to school. I'm not at
all sure it s the right thing for her. Amyas said,
"Don't fuss about the girl. She'll be all right.
Good riddance." Just then Elsa came running down the
path from the house. She had some sort of scarlet
jumper in her hand. Amyas growled, "Come
alongl Get back into the posel I don't want
to waste time." He went back to where his easel was
standing, I noticed that he staggered a bit and I
wondered if he had been drinking. A man might easily be excused for doing so with all the fuss and the
scenes. He grumbled, "The beer here is red-hot.
Why can't we keep some ice down here?" And
Caroline Crale said, "I'll send you down some
beer just off the ice." Amyas grunted out,
"Thanks." Then Caroline shut the door of the
Battery Garden and came up with us to the house. We
sat down on the terrace and she went into the house.
About five minutes
130 Murder In Retrospect later Angela
came along with a couple of bottles of beer and some
glasses. It was a hot day and we were glad to see
it. As we were drinking it Caroline passed us. She
was carrying another bottle and said she would take it
down to Amyas. Meredith said he'd go, but she was quite
firm that she'd go herself. I thought-fool that I was
--that it was just her jealousy. She couldn't stand those two
being alone down there. That was what had taken her down
there once already with the weak pretext of arguing about
She went off down that zigzag path, and
Meredith and I watched her go. We'd still not decided
anything, and now Angela clamored that I should come
bathing with her. It seemed impossible to get Meredith
alone. I just said to him, "After lunch." And he nodded.
Then I went of[ bathing with Angela. We had a
good swim--across the creek and back--and then we lay
out on the rocks, sun-bathing. Angela was a bit
taciturn, and that suited me. I made up my
mind that directly after lunch I'd take Caroline
aside and accuse her point-blank of having stolen
the stuff. No use letting Meredith do it-- he'd
be too weak. No, I'd tax her with it outright.
After that she'd have to give it back or, even if she
didn't, she wouldn't dare use it.
I was pretty sure it must be her on thinking things
over. Elsa was far too sensible and hard-boiled a
young woman to risk tampering with poisons. She had
a hard head and would take care of her own skin.
Caroline was made of more dangerous stuff-unbalanced, carried away by impulses and
definitely neurotic. And still, you know, at the
back of my mind, was the feeling that Meredith
have made a mistake. Or some servant
might have been poking about in there and spilled the stuff
and then not dared to own up. You see, poison seems
such a melodramatic
thing-you can't believe in it.
Not till it happens. It was quite late when I looked at my watch, and
Angela and I fairly raced up to lunch. They were
just sitting down
Murder In Retrospect 131 --all but
Amyas, who had remained down in the Battery
painting. Quite a usual thing for him to do, and
privately I thought him very wise to elect to do it
today. Lunch was likely to have been an awkward meal.
We had coffee on the terrace. I wish I could
remember better how Caroline looked and acted.
She didn't seem excited in any way. Quiet
and rather sad is my impression. What a devil that
For it is a devilish thing to do-to poison a man
in cold blood. If there had been a revolver about
and she'd caught it up and shot him--well, that might
have been understandable. But this cold, deliberate,
vindictive poisoning-- and so calm and collected.
She got up and said, in the most natural way
possible, that she'd take his coffee to him.
And yet she knew--she must have known--that by now she'd
find him dead. Miss Williams went with her. I
don't remember if that was at Caroline's
suggestion or not. I rather think it was.
The two women went off together. Meredith strolled away shortly afterward. I was just making an excuse
to go after him when he came running up the path again.
His face was gray. He gasped out, "We must get
a doctor-- quick-Amyas--was
I sprang up. "Is he ill-dying?"
Meredith said, "I'm afraid he's dead."
We'd forgotten Elsa for a minute. But she let out
a sudden cry. It was like the wail of a banshee.
She cried, "Dead? Dead?" And then she ran. I
didn't know anyone could move like that--like a deer, like
a stricken thing, and like an avenging fury, too.
Meredith panted out, "Go after her. rll telephone.
Go after her. You don't know what she'll do."
I did go after her--and it's as well I did. She
might quite easily have killed Caroline. Ive never
seen such grief and such frenzied hate. All the
veneer of refinement and education was stripped off.
Deprived of her lover, she was just elemental
woman. She'd have clawed Caroline's face,
torn her hair, hurled her over the
parapet if she could. She
132 Murder In Retrospect thought for some
reason or other that Caroline had knifed him.
She'd got it all wrong--naturally.
I held her off, and then Miss Williams took
charge. She was good, I must say. She got Elsa to control herself in under a minute--told her she'd
got to be quiet and that we couldn't have this noise and
violence going on. She was a tartar, that woman. But
she did the trick. Elsa was quiet--just stood there
gasping and trembling.
As for Caroline, as far as I was concerned, the mask
was right off. She stood there perfectly quiet--you
might have said dazed. But she wasn't dazed. It was
her eyes gave her away. They were watchful-fully aware and quietly watchful. She'd begun,
I suppose, to be afraid.
I went up to her and spoke to her. I said it quite low.
I don t think either of the two women overheard. I
said, "You damned murderess, you've killed my
She shrank back. She said, "No-oh,
no-he-he did it himself."
I looked her full in the eyes. I said, "You can
tell that story-to the police."
She did, and they didn't believe her.
(end of Philip Blake's Statement)
NAP.PI-VS OF MzRr-rm BLAKE
Dear M. Poirot:
As I promised you, I have set down in writing an
account ofaUs I can remember relating to the tragic events that happened sixteen years ago. First of
all, I would like to say that I have thought over carefully
all you said to me at our recent meeting. And on
reflection I am more convinced than I was before that it
is in the highest degree unlikely that Caroline
Crale poisoned her husband. It always seemed
incongruous, but the absence of any other explanation
and her own attitude led me to follow, sheeplike,
the opinion of other people, and to say with them--that if she
didn t do it, what explanation could there be?
Murder In Rmert 133 Since seeing you I have
reflected very carefully oh the alternative
solution presented at the time and brought forward by the
defense at the trial. That is, that Amyas
Crale took his own life. Although from what I
knew of him that solution seemed quite fantastic at the
time, I now see fit to modify my opinion.
To begin with, and highly significant, is the fact
that Caroline believed it. If we are now
to take it that that charming and gentle lady was unjustly
convicted, then her own frequently reiterated
belief must carry great weight. She knew Amyas
better than anyone else. If
thought suicide possible, then suicide
must have been possible in spite of the skepticism of his friends.
I will advance the theory, therefore, that there was in Amyas
Crale some core of conscience, some undercurrent of
remorse, and even despair at the excesses to which
his temperament led him, of which only his wife was
aware. This, I think, is a not impossible
supposition. He may have shown that side of himself
only to her.
Though it is inconsistent with anything I ever heard
him say, yet it is nevertheless a truth that in most
some unsuspected and inconsistent streak which often comes
as a surprise to people who have known them intimately.
A respected and austere man is discovered to have had
a coarser side to his life hidden. A vulgar
moneymaker has, perhaps, a secret appreciation of
some delicate work of art. Hard and ruthless
people have been convicted of unsuspected hidden
kindnesses. Generous and jovial men have been shown to have
a mean and cruel side.
So it may be that in Amyas Crale there ran a
strain of morbid self-accusation, and that the more he
blustered out his egoism and his right to do as he pleased the
more strongly that secret conscience of his worked. It is improbable, on the face of it, but I now believe
that it must have been so. And I repeat again, Caroline
herself held steadfastly to that view. That, I insist,
And now to examine
or rather my memory of facts, in the light of that new
I think that I might with relevance include here a
conversation I held with Caroline some weeks before the
actual tragedy. It was during Elsa Greer's
first visit to Alderbury.
Caroline, as I have told you, was aware of my deep
affection and friendship for her. I was, therefore, the
person in whom she could most easily confide. She
had not been looking very happy. Nevertheless, I was
surprised when she suddenly asked me one day whether
I thought Amyas really cared very much for this
girl he had brought down.
I said, "He's interested in painting her. You know
what Amyas is."
She shook her head and said, "No, he's in love
",iWell-perhaps a little."
A great deal, I think."
I said, "She is unusually attractive, I admit. And we both know that Amyas is
susceptible. But you must know by now, my dear, that
Amyas really only cares for one per-son-and that is
you. He has these infatuations, but they don't last.
You are the one person to him, and, though he behaves
badly, it does not really affect his feeling for
She said, "But this time, Merry, I'm afraid. That
girl is so--so terribly sincere. She's so young and
so intense I have a feeling that this time it's serious."
I said, "But the very fact that she
so young and, as you say, so sincere, will protect her.
On the whole, women are fair game to Amyas, but
in the case of a girl like this it will be different."
She aid, "Yes, that's what I'm afraid of-it
will be different."
I said, "B, t you know, Caroline, you
that Amyas is really devoted to you."
She said to that, "Does one ever know with men?" And then
she laughed a little ruefully and said, "I'm a very
primitive woman, Merry. I'd like to take a
hatchet to that girl."
I TOLD HER that the child probably didn't understand in the least what she was doing. She had a great
admiration and hero worship for Amyas and she
probably didn't realize at all that Amyas was
falling in love with her.
Caroline just said to me, "Dear MerryI" and began
to talk about the garden. I hoped that she was not gomg
to worry any more about the matter.
Shortly afterward Elsa went back to London.
Amyas was away, too, for several weeks. I had
really forgotten all about the business. In fact, I
thought there wasn't anything to worry about. And then I
heard that Elsa was back again at Alderbury in
order that Amyas might finish the picture.
I was a little disturbed by the news. But Caroline, when
I saw her, was not in a communicative mood. She
seemed disq her usual self-not worried or upset
in any way. I nnagined that everything was
That's why it was such a shock to me to learn how far the
thing had gone.
I have told you of my conversations with Crale and with
Elsa. I had no opportunity of talking
to Caroline. We were only able to exchange those few
words about which I have already told you.
I can see her face now--the wide, Clark eyes
and the restrained emotion. I can still hear her voice as she said, "Everything's finished."
I can't describe to you the infinite desolation she
conveyed in those words. They were a literal statement of
truth. With Amyas's defection everything was finished
for her. That, I am convinced, was why she took the
coniine. It was a way out. A way suggested to her
by my stupid dissertation on the drug. And the passage
I read from the
gives a gracious picture of death.
Here is my present belief: She took the
coniine, resolved to end her own life when Amyas
left her. He may have seen her take it or he
may have discovered that she had it later.
That discovery acted upon him with terrific force. He
was horrified at what his actions had led
her to contemplate. But, notwithstanding his horror and
remorse, he still felt himself incapable of giving up
Elsa. I can understand that. Anyone who had fallen in
love with her would find it almost impossible to tear himself
could not envisage life without Elsa. He realized
that Caroline could not live without
him. He decided there was only one way out-to use the
All this, alas, is not what you asked me for--which was
an account of the happenings as I remember them. Let
me now repair that omission. I have already told you
fully what happened on the day preceding Amyas's
death. We now come to the day itself.
I had slept very badly-worried by the disastrous
turn of events for my friends. After a long wakeful
period, while I vainly tried to think of something
helpful I could do to avert the catastrophe, I
fell into a heavy sleep about 6 a.m. The bringing of
my early tea did not awaken me, and I finally
woke up, heavy-headed and unrefreshed, about half
past nine. It was shortly after that that I thought I
heard movements in the room below, which was the
room I used as a laboratory.
I may say here that actually those sounds were
probably caused by a cat getting in. I found the
window sash raised a little way, as it had carelessly
been left from the day before. It was just wide enough to admit
the passage of a cat. I merely mention the sounds
to explain how I came to enter the laboratory.
I went in there as soon as I had dressed and,
looking along the shelves, I noticed that the
bottle containing the preparation of coniine was slightly out of line with the rest. Having had my eye
drawn to it in this way, I was
Murder In Retrospect 137
,startled to see that a considerable quantity of it was
gone. The bottle had been nearly full the day
before, now it was nearly empty.
I shut and locked the window and went out, locking the
I door behind me. I was considerably upset and also
bewildered. When startled, my mental processes
are, I am afraid, somewhat slow.
I was first disturbed, then apprehensive, and finally
definitely alarmed. I questioned the household, and they
all denied having entered the laboratory at all.
I thou.ght things over a little while longer and then
decided to ring up my brother and get his
Philip was quicker than I was. He saw the
seriousness of my discovery and urged me to come over at
once and consult with him.
I went out, encountering Miss Williams, who was
looking for a truant pupil. I assured her that I
had not seen Angela and that she had not been to the
I think that Miss Williams noticed there was
something amiss. She looked at me rather curiously. I had no intention, however, of telling her what had
happened. I suggested she should try the kitchen
garden-Angela had a favorite apple tree there
--and I myself hurried down to the shore and rowed
myselstacr to the Alderbury side. My brother was
already there waiting for me.
We walked up to the house together by the way you and I
went flae other day. Having seen the topography,
you can understand that in passing underneath the wall of the
Battery Garden we were bound to overhear anything being
said inside it.
Beyond the fact that Caroline and Amyas were engaged in
a disagreement of some kind, I did not pay much
attention to what was said.
Certainly I overheard no threat of any
kind uttered by Caroline. The subject of discussion
was Angela, and I presume Caroline was pleading
for a respite from the fiat o1: school. Amyas,
however, was adamant, shouting out irritably that it was
all settled-he'd see to her packing.
The door of the Battery opened just as we drew
abreast of it and Caroline came out. She looked
disturbed, but not unduly so. She smiled rather
absently at me, and said they had been discussing
Angela. Elsa came down the path at that minute
and, as Amyas dearly wanted to get on with the sitting without interruption from us, we went on up the path.
Philip blamed himself severely afterward for the fact that
we did not take immediate action. But I myself cannot see
it the same way. We had no earthly right to assume
that such a thing as murder was being contemplated.
(moreover, I now believe that it was
contemplated.) It was clear that we should have to adopt
course of action, but I still maintain that we were right
to talk the matter over carefully first. It was necessary
to find the right thing to do, and once or twice I found
myself wondering if I had not, after all, made a
mistake. Had the bottle really been
full the day before as I thought?
I am not one of these people (like my brother Philip)
who can be cocksure of everything. One's memory
does play tricks on one. How often, for instance,
one is convinced one has put an article in a
certain place, later to find that he has put it
somewhere quite different. The more I tried to recall the
state of the bottle on the preceding afternoon the more
uncertain and doubtful I became. This was very annoying
to Philip, who began completely to lose patience
with me. We were not able to continue our discussion at the time and
tacitly agreed to postpone it until after lunch.
(i may say that I was alway free to drop in for
lunch at Alder. bury if I chose.)
Later, Angela and Caroline brought us beer. I
asked Angela what she had been up to, playing
truant, and told her Miss Williams was on the
warpath, and she said she had been bathing, and added that
she didn t see why she should have to mend her horrible
old skirt when she was going to have all new things to go
to school with.
Since there seemed no chance of further talk with
Murder In Retrpe 139 alone, and
since I was really anxious to think things out by myself,
I wandered off down the path toward the Battery. Just
above the Battery, as I showed you, there is a clearing
in the trees where there used to be an old bench. I
sat there smoking and thinking, and watching Elsa as she
sat posing for Amyas.
I shall always think of her as she was that day-rigid in the
pose, with her yellow shirt and dark-blue trousers
and "a red puUs-over slung round her shoulders for
Her face was so alight with life and health and
radiance. And that gay voice of hers reciting plans for the future.
This sounds as though I was eavesdropping, but that is not
so. I was perfectly visible to Elsa. Both she and
Amyas knew I was there. She waved her hand at
me and called
up that Amyas was a perfect bear that morning--he
i wouldn t let her rest. She was stiff and aching
Amyas growled out that she wasn't as stiff as he
was. He was stiff all over--muscular
rheumatism. Elsa said mock. ingly, "Poor
old manl" And he said she'd be taking on a
It shocked me, you know, their lighthearted
acquieaescence in their future together whffle they were
causing so much suffering. And yet I couldn t hold
it against her. She was so young, so confident, so very much in
love. And she didn't really know what she was doing.
She didn't understand suffenng. She just assumed
witheaence naiveeaccfi. dence of a child that Caroline would be
all right," that "she'd soon get over it." She
saw nothing, you see, but her. self and Amyas-happy together. She'd already told me my point of
view was old-fashioned. She had no doubts, no
tualms, no pity, either. But can one expect pity from radiant youth? It is an older, wiser emotion.
They didn't talk very much, of course. No painter
wants to be chattering when he is working. Perhaps every ten
minutes or so Elsa would make an observation and
Amyas would grunt a reply. Once she said,
"I think you're right about Spain. That's the first
place we'll go to. And you must take me to see a
bullfight. It must be wonderfull
Only I'd like the bull to kill the man--not the other
way about. I understand how Roman women felt when
they saw a man die. Men aren't much, but animals
I suppose she was rather like an animal herself
--young and primitive and with nothing yet of man's sad
experience and doubtful wisdom. I don t
believe Elsa had begun to
But she was very much alive--more alive than any
person I have ever known.
That was the last time I saw her radiant and assured
--on top of the world. Fey is the word for it, isn't
The bell sounded for lunch, and I got up and went
down the path and in at the Battery door, and Elsa joined me. It was dazzlingly bright there coming in out of the
shady trees. I could hardly see. Amyas was
sprawled back on the seat, his arms flung out.
He was stanng at the picture. I've so often
seen him like that. How was I to know that already the poison
was working, stiffening him as he sat?
He so hated and resented iUness. He would never own
to it. I dare say he thought he had got a touch of the
sun --the symptoms are much the same-but he'd be the
last person to complain about it.
Elsa said, "He won't come up to lunch."
Privately I thought he was wse. I
said, "So long, then." He moved his eyes from the
picture until they rested on me. There was a
queer--how shall I describe it?--it looked like
malevolence. Aeakind of malevolent glare.
Naturally I didn t understand it then--if his
picture wasn't going as he liked he often
looked quite murderous. I thought
was what it was. He made a sort of grunting
Neither Elsa nor I saw anything unusual in him
--just artistic temperament.
So we left him there and she and I went up to the house laughing and talking. If she'd known-poor
child-that she'd never see him alive again- Oh, well,
thank God, she didn't. She was able to be happy
a little longer.
i Mud In R 14x
I Caroline was quite normal at lunch--a little
preoccupied, nothing more. And doesnt that show that she
had nothing to do with it? She
have been such an actress.
She and the governess went down afterward and found
him. I met Miss Williams as she came up.
She told me to telephone a doctor and went
back to Caroline.
That poor childl Elsa, I mean. She had that
frantic, unrestrained grief that children have. They can't
conhat life can do these things to them. Caroline was quite
calm. Yes, she was quite calm. She was able, of
control herself better than Elsa. She didn t
seem remorse" ful-then. Just said he must have done
it himself. And we
couldn't believe that. Elsa burst out and accused her
to her face. Of course, she may have realized, already, that she herself
would be suspected. Yes, that probably explains
Philip was quite convinced that she
The governess was a great help and stand-by. She made
Else lie down and gave her a sedative and she
kept Angela out of the way when the police came.
Yes, she was a tower of strength, that woman.
The whole thing became a nightmare. The
police searching the house and asking questions, and then the
reporters swarming about the place like flies and
clicking cameras and wanting interviews with members
of the family.
A nightmare, the whole thing.
It's still a nightmare, after all these years. Please
God, once you've convinced little Carla what really
we can forget it all and never remember it again.
have committed suicide--however unlikely it seems.
(end of Meredith Blake's Narrative)
NAAT-LVE OF LADY DrrnSHAM I have set down here the full story of my meeting with
Amyas Crale, up to the time of his tragic death.
I saw him first at a studio party. He was standing,
I remember, by a window and I saw him as I
came in at the door. I asked who he was.
Someone said, "That's Crale, the painter." I said
at once that I'd like to meet him.
We talked on that occasion for perhaps ten minutes.
When anyone makes the impression on you that Amyas
Crale made on me, it's hopeless to attempt
to describe it. If I say that when I
saw Amyas Crale everybody else seemed
to grow very small and fade away, that expresses it
as well as anything can.
Immediately after that meeting I went to look at as many of
his pictures as I could. He had a show on in
Bond Street at the moment and there was one of his
pictures in Manchester and one in Leeds and two in
pubhc galleries in London. I went to see them
all. Then I met him again. I said, "I've been
to see all your pictures. I think they're
He just looked amused. He said, "Who said you were
any judge of painting? I don't believe you know
anything abolat it."
I said, "Perhaps not. But they are marvelous, all the same."
He grinned at me and said, "Don't be a gushing
I said, "I'm not; I want you to paint me."
Crale said, "If you've any sense at all,
you'll realize that I don't paint portraits of
I said, "It needn't be a portrait, and I'm not
a pretty woman."
He looked at me then as though he'd
begun to see me. He said,
perhaps you're not."
I said, Will you paint me, then?
He studied me for some time with his head on one side.
Then he said, "You're a strange child, aren't you?"
I said, "I'm quite rich, you know; I can afford to pay
well for it."
He said, "Why are you so anxious for me to paint
you?" I said, "Because I want it!" He said, "Is
that a reason?"
And I said, "Yes. I always get what I
He said then, "Oh, my poor child, how young you arel"
I said, "Will you paint me?" He took me by the shoulders and turned me toward the
light and looked me over. Then he stood away from
me a little. I stood quite still, waiting.
He said, "I've sometimes wanted to paint a flight
of impossibly colored Australian macaws
alighting on St. Paul's Cathedral. If I
painted you against a nlcc traditional bit of
outdoor landscape I believe I'd get
exactly the same result."
I said, "Theneay will paint me?"
He said, You rc one of the loveliest, crudest,
most flamboyant bits of exotic coloring
I've ever seen. I'll paint youl"
I said, "Then that's settled."
He went on. "But I'll warn you, Elsa
Greer. If I do paint you, I shall probably
make love to you."
I said, "I hope you will." I said it quite steadily and
quietly. I heard him catch his breath and I saw
the look that came into his eyes.
You see, it was as sudden as all that.
A day or two later we met again. He told me
that he wanted me to come down to Devonshire-he'd
got the very place there that he wanted for a background.
He said, "I'm married, you know, and I'm very fond
of my wife." I said if he was fond of her she must be very nice.
He said she was extremely nice.
fact," he said, "she's
quite adorable-and I adore her. So put that in your
pipe, young Elsa, and smoke it."
I told him that I quite understood.
He began the picture a week later. Caroline
Crale welcomed me very pleasantly.
She didn't like me much, but, after all, why should she?
Amyas was very circumspect. He never said a word
to me that his wife couldn't have Overheard and I was
polite and formal to him. Underneath, though, we both
After ten days he told me I was to go back
to London. I said, "The picture isn't
He said: "It's barely begun. The truth of the
that I can t paint you, Elsa."
I said, "Why?"
He sai,-d, "You know well enough why, Elsa. And
that's why you we got to clear out. I can't think about the
paint- ing-I can't think about anything but you."
I knew it would be no good my going back to London,
but I said,
well, I'll go if you say so."
Amyas said, "Good girl."
So I went. I didn't write to him. He held
out for ten days and then he came. He was so thin and
haggard and miserable that it shocked me.
He said, "I warned you, Elsa. Don't
say I didn't warn
I said, "I've been waiting for you. I knew you'd
come." He gave a sort of groan and said, "There
are things that are too strong for any man. I can't
eat or sleep or rest for wanting you."
I said I knew that, and that it was the same with me and
had been from the first moment I'd seen him.
We wele made for each other and we'd found each
other --and we both knew we had to be together always.
But something else happened, too. The unfinffshed
picture began to haunt Amyas. He said to me,
Damned funny, I couldn't paint you before--you yourself
got in the way of it. But I
to paint you, Elsa. I want to paint you so that that
picture will be the finest thing I've ever done. I'm itching and aching now to get at my brushes and to see you
sitting there on that hoary old chestnut of a
battlement wall with the conventional blue sea and the
Mulstn R 145 decorous English trees-and
you--you--sitting there like a discordant shriek of
He said, "And I've got to paint you that wayl And
I can t be fussed and bothered while I
m doing it. When the picture's finished I'll
tell Caroline the truth and we'll get the whole
messy business cleaned up."
I said, "Will Caroline make a fuss about
He said he didn't think so. But you never knew with
I said I was sorry if she was going to be upset;
but, after all, I said, these things did happen.
He said, Very nice and reasonable, Elsa. But
Caroline isn't reasonable, never has been
reasonable, and certainly isn't going to feel
reasonable. She loves me, you know."
I said I understood that, but if she loved him she'd
put his happiness first, and, at any rate, she
wouldn't want to keep him if he wanted to be
free. He said, "Life can't really be solved by admirable
maxims out of modern literature. Nature's red
in tooth and claw, remember."
I said, "Surely we are all civilized' people
nowadaysl" and Amyas laughed. He said,
"Civilize-d 15eople my footl
Caroline would probably like to take a hatchet to you.
She might do it, too."
I said, "Then don't tell her."
He said, "No. The break's got to come. You've
got to belong to me properly, Elsa. Before all the
world. Openly mine."
I said, "Suppose she won't divorce you?"
He said, "I'm not afraid of that."
I said, "What are you afraid of then?"
And he said slowly, "I don't know." You see,
he knew Caroline. While I didn't. If
I'd had any idea-We went down again to Alderbu. Things were difficult
this time. Caroline had got suspicious. I
it; I didn't like it a bit. I've always hated
deceit and concealment.
I thought we ought to tell her. Amyas wouldn't
hear of it.
The funny part of it was that he didn't really care at all. In spite of being fond of Caroline and not
wanting to hurt her, he just didn't care about the
honesty or dishonesty of it all. He was painting with a
kind of frenzy, and nothing else mattered. I
hadn't seen him in one of his working spells before. I
realized now what a really great genius he was.
It was natural for him to be so carried
away that all the ordinary decencies didn't
matter. But it was different for me. I was in a
horrible position. Caroline resented me-and quite
rightly. The only thing to put the position quite straight
was to be honest and tell her the truth.
But all Amyas would say was that he wasn't going
to be bothered with scenes and fusses until he'd
finished the picture. I said there probably wouldn't
be a scene. Caroline would have too much dignity and
pride for that. I said, "I want to be honest about it
to be hone/i"
Amyas said, "To hell with honesty. I'm painting a
pic-tureI" I did see his point of view, but
he wouldn't see mine. And in the end I broke
down. Caroline had been talking of some plan she and
Amyas were going to carry out next autumn. She talked about it quite confidently. And I suddenly felt
it was too abominable what we were doing --letting her
go on like this--and perhaps, too, I was angry, because she
was really being very unpleasant to me in a clever sort
of way that one couldn't take hold of.
And so I came out with the truth. In a way, I still
think I was right. Though, of course, I
wouldn't have done it if I'd had the faintest idea
what was to come of it.
The clash came right away. Amyas was furious with
me for telling Caroline, but he had to admit that what
I had said was true.
I didn't understand Caroline at all. We all
went over to Meredith Blake's to tea, and Caroline
played up mar-velously-talking and laughing. Like a
fool, I thought she was taking it well. It was
awkward, my not being able to
Murd In Ruddoqt 147 leave the house, but
Amyas would have gone up in smoke if I had. I
thought perhaps Caroline would go. It would have made it much
easier for us if she had.
I didn't see her take the coniine. I want
to be honest, so I think that it's just possible that she
may have taken it as she said she did-with the idea of
suicide in her mind.
But I don't really
think so. I think she was one of those intensely jealous
and possessive women who won't let go of anything
that they think belongs to them Amyas was her property.
I think she was quite prepared to kill him rather than to let
him go, completely and finally, to another
woman. I think she right away made up her mind
to kill him. And I think that Meredith's happening
to discuss coniine so freely just gave her the means
to do what she'd already made up her mind to do. She was
a very bitter and revengeful woman--vindictive.
Amyas knew all along that she was dangerous. I
The next morning she had a final showdown with
Amyas. I heard most of it from outside on the
terrace. He was splendid-very patient and calm.
He implored her to be reasonable. He said he was
very fond of her and the child, and always would be He'd do
everything he could to assure their future. Then he
hardened up and said, "But understand this: I'm damned
well going to marry Elsa, and nothing shall stop me.
You and I always agreed
to leave each other free. These things happe .
Caroline said to him, "Do as you please. I've warned you." Her voice was very quiet, but there was a
queer note in it. Amyas said, "What do you mean,
Caroline?" She said, "You're mine and
I don't mean to let you go.
Sooner than let you go to that girl
Fll kill you--was
Just at that minute Philip Blake came along the
terrace. I got up and went to meet him. I
didn't want him to overhear. Presently Amyas
came out and said it was time to get on with the picture.
We went down together to the Battery. He didn't
say much. Just said that Caroline was cut
ting up rough--but not to talk about it. He wanted
to concentrate on what he was doing. Another day, he
said, would about finish the picture.
He said, "And it'll be the best thing I've done,
Elsa, even if it is paid for in blood and tears."
A little later I went up to the house to get a
pullover. There was a chilly wind blowing. When I
came back again, Caroline was there. I suppose
she had come down to make one last appeal to Amyas.
Philip and Meredith Blake were there, too.
It was then that Amyas said he was thirsty and wanted a
drink. He said there was beer but it wasn't iced.
Caroline said she'd send him down some iced beer.
She said it quite naturally, in an almost friendly tone. She was an "actress, that woman. She must have known
then what she meant to do.
She brought it down about ten minutes later. Amyas
was painting. She poured it out and set the glass down
beside him. Neither of us was watching her.
Amyas was intent on what he was doing and I had
to keep the pose.
Amyas drank it down the way he always drank
beer-- just pouring it down his throat in one draught.
Then he made a face and said it tasted foul; but,
at any rate, it was cold.
And even then, when he said that, no suspicion entered
my head. I just laughed and said, "Liver."
When she d seen him drink it Caroline went
It must have been about forty minutes later that Amyas
complained of stiffness and pains. He said he thought he
must have got a touch of muscular rheumatism.
Amyas was always intolerant of any ailment, and he
didn't like being fussed over. After saying that he
turned it off with a light "Old age, I
suppose. You've taken on a creaking old man,
I played up to him. But I noticed that his legs
moved stiffly and queerly and that he grimaced once or twice. I never dreamed that it wasn't
rheumatism. Presently he drew the bench along
and sat sprawled on that, occasionally stretching up to put a much of paint here and
there on the canvas. He used to do that
sometimes when he was painting. Just sit staring at me and
then at the canvas. Sometimes he'd do it for half
an hour at a time. So I didn't think it
We heard the bell go for lunch and he said he
wasn't coming up. He'd stay where he was and he
didn't want aningfThat wasri't unusual either
and it would be easier for him than facing Caroline at
He was talking in rather a queer way--grunting out his
words. But he sometimes did that when he was dissatisfied
with the progress of the picture.
Meredith Blake came in to fetch me. He spoke
to Amyas, but Amyas only grunted at him.
We went up to the house together and left him there. We
left him there-to die alone. I'd never seen much
illness, I didn't know much about it; I thought
Amyas was just in a painter's mood. If I'd
known-if I'd realized, perhaps a doctor could have
saved him. Oh, why didn't I-- It's no good
thinking of that now. I was a blind fool, a blind, stupid fool.
There isn't much more to tell. Caroline and the governess
went down there after lunch. Meredith followed them.
Presently he came running up. He
told us Amyas was dead.
Then I knewl Knew, I mean, that it was
Caroline. I still didn't think of poison. I
thought she'd gone down
that minute and either shot or stabbed him.
I wanted to get at her--to kill her-How
she do it? How
she? He was so alive, so full of life and
vigor. To put all t-hat out--to make him limp
and cold. Just so that I shouldn t have him.
Horrible womanl Horrible, scornful, cruel,
vindictive womanl I hate herl I still hate
They didn't even hang her. They ought to have hanged
her. Even hanging was too good for herl I hate
herl I hate herl I hate herl
(end of Lady Dittisham's Narrative)
1NARRAT-QAs oFrom CcIA WIL-RDDAAMS
Dear M. Poirot:
I am sending you an account oI those events in
September, 19-, actually witnessed
I have been absolutely ('rank and have kept nothing
back. You may show it to Carla Crale. It may
pain her, but I have always been a believer in truth.
Palliatives are harm[ul. One must have the
courage to lace reality. Without that courage, life
is meaningless. The people who do us most harm are the people who
shield us ('rom reality.
Believe me, yours sincerely,
My name is Cecilia Williams. I was engaged
by Mrs. Crale as governess to her haRather sister,
Angela Warren, in 19--. I was then
I took up my dutxes at Alderbury, a very
beautiful estate in South Devon which had belonged
to Mr. Crale's family for many generations. I
knew that Mr. Crale was a well-known painter but
I did not meet him until I took up
residence at Alderbury.
The household consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Crale,
Angela Warren (then a girl of thirteen), and three servants, who had been with the family many
I found my pupil an interesting and
promising character. She had very marked abilities and it
was a pleasure to teach her. She was somewhat wild and
undisciplined, but these faults arose mainly through
high spirits, and I have always preferred my girls to show
spirit. An excess of vitality can be trained and
guided into paths of real usefulness and achievement.
On the whole, I found Angela amenable
to discipline. She had been somewhat spoiled--mainly
by Mrs. Crale, who was far too indulgent where she
was concerned. Mr. Crale's influence was, I
considered, unwise. He indulged her absurdly
one day and was unnecessarily peremptory
on another occasion. He was very much a man of
moods, possibly owing to what is styled the artistic
I have never seen, myself, why the possession of
artistic ability should be supposed to excuse a man
from a decent exercise of self-control. I did not
myself admire Mr. Crale's paintings. The
drawing seemed to me faulty and the coloring
exaggerated, but, naturally, I was not called upon
to express any opinion on these matters. I soon formed a deep attachment to Mrs.
Crale. I admired her character and her fortitude in the
difficulties of her life. Mr.
Crale was not a faithful husband, and I think that that
fact was the source of much pain to her. A
stronger-minded woman would have left him, but Mrs.
Crale never seemed to contemplate such a course.
She endured his infidelities and forgave him for them,
but I may say that she did not take them meekly.
She remonstrated --and with spiritl
It was saidat the trial that they led a cat-and-dog
life. I would not go as far as that-Mrs. Crale had
too much dignity for that term to apply-but they
have quar. rels. And I consider that that was only
natural under the circumstances.
I had been with Mrs. Crale just over two years
when Miss Elsa Greer appeared upon the scene.
She arrived down at Alderbury in the summer of
19--. Mrs. Crale had not met her
previously. She was Mr. Crale's friend, and she
was said to be there for the purpose of having her
It was apparent at once that Mr. Crale was
infatuated with this girl, and that the girl herself was doing
nothing to discourage him. She behaved, in my opinion, quite outrageously, being abominably rude
to Mrs. Crale and openly flirting with
Naturally Mrs. Crale said nothing to me, but I
could see that she was disturbed and unhappy and I did
every. thing in my power to distract her mind and lighten her
hurden. Miss Greer sat every day for Mr.
Crale, but I noticed that the picture was not
getting on very fast. They
had, no doubt, other things to talk about.
My pupil, I am thankful to say, noticed very
little of what was going on. Angela was in some ways
young for her age. Though her intellect was well
developed, she was not at all what I may term
precocious. She seemed to have no wish to read
undesirable books and showed no signs of morbid
criosity such as girls often do at her age.
She, therefore, saw nothing undesirable in the friendship
between Mr. Crale and Miss Greer. Nevertheless,
she disliked Miss Greer and thought her stupid. Here
she was quite right. Miss Greer had had, I
presume, a proper education, but she never opened a
book and was quite unfamiliar with current literary
allusions. Moreover, she could not sustain a
discussion on any intellectual subject. She was entirely taken up with her personal
appearance, her clothes, and men.
Angela, I think, did not even realize that her
sister was unhappy. She was not at that time a very
perceptive person. She spent a lot of time in
hoydenish pastimes, such as tree climbing and wild
feats of bicycling. She was also a passionate reader
and showed excellent taste in what she liked and
Mrs. Crale was always careful to conceal any signs
of unhappiness from Angela, and exerted herself
to appear bright and cheerful when the girl was about.
Miss Greer went back to London--at which, I
can tell you, we were all very pleasedl The servants
disliked her as much as I did. She was the kind of
person who gives a lot of unnecessary trouble and
forgets to say thank you.
Mr. Crale went away shortly afterward, and of
course I knew that he had gone after the girl. I
was very sorry for Mrs. Crale. She felt these
things very keenly. I felt extremely bitter
toward Mr. Crale. When a man has a charming,
gracious, intelligent wife he has no business
to treat her badly.
However, she and I both hoped the affair would soon
be over. Not that we mentioned the subject to each other --we did not-but she knew quite weUs how I
felt about it.
Unfortunately, after some weeks, the pair of them
reappeared. It seemed the sittings were to be
Mr. Crale was now painting with absolute frenzy.
He seemed less preoccupiedwith the girl than with his
picture of her. Nevertheless, I realized that this was not
the usual kind of thing we had gone through before. This
girl had got her claws into him and she meant
business. He was just like wax in her hands.
The thing came to a head on the day before he died-- that
is, on September 17th. Miss GreeThat's
manner had been unbearably insolent the last few
days. She was feeling sure of herself and she wanted
to assert her importance. Mrs. Crale behaved like
a true gentlewoman. She was icily polite but
she showed the other clearly what she thought of
On this day, September 17th, as we were sitting in
the drawing-room after lunch, Miss Greer came out
with an amazing remark as to how she was going
to redecorate the room when she was living at
Naturally, Mrs. Crale couldn't let that pass. She challenged her, and Miss Greer had
the impudence to say, Before us all, that she was going
to marry Mr. Crale. She actually talked about
marrying a married man-and she said it to his wifel
I WAS VERY, VERY ANGRY with Mr. Crale.
How dared he let this girl insult his wife in her
own drawing-room? If he wanted to run away with the
girl he should have gone off with her, not brought her
into his wife s house and backed her up in her
In spite of what she must have felt, Mrs.
Crale did not lose her dignity. Her husband
came in just then, and she immediately demanded confirmation from
He was, not unnaturally, annoyed with Miss
Greer for her unconsidered forcing of the situation.
Apart from anything else, it made
appear at a disadvantage, and men do not like appearing
at a disadvantage. It upsets their vanity.
He stood there, a great giant of a man, looking as
sheepish and foolish as a naughty schoolboy. It
was his wife who carried off the honors of the situation.
He had to mutter foolishly that it was true, but that
he hadn't meant her to learn it like this. I have never seen anything like the look of scorn she
gave him. She went out of the room with her head held
high. She was a beautiful woman-much more beautiful
than that flamboyant girl-and she walked like an
I hoped, with all my heart, that Amyas Crale
would be punished for the cruelty he had displayed and for the
indignity he had put upon a long-suffering and noble
For the first time I tried to say something of what I
felt to Mrs. Crale, but she stopped me.
She said, "We must try and behave as usual.
It's the best way. We're all going over
to Meredith Blake's to tea."
I said to her then, I think you are wonderful, Mrs.
She said, "You don't know."
Then, as she was going out of the room, she came backand
kissed me. She said, "You're such a great comfort
tome.?She went to her room then, and I think she
cried. I sawher when they all started off. She was
wearing a big.brimmed hat that shaded her face-a
hat she very seldom
wore. Mr. Ca-ale was uneasy but was trying to brazen
out. Mr. Philip Blake was trying to behave as
usual. That Miss Greer was looking like a cat who
has got at the cream jug-all
self-satisfaction and purrs!
They all started off. They got back about six. I
did not see Mrs. Crale again alone that evening.
She was very quiet and discdgmpdgsed at dinner and
she went to bed early. I don't think that anyone but
I knew how she was suf. fering.
The evening was taken up with a kind of running quarrel
between Mr. Ca'ale and Angela. They brought up the
old school question again. He was irritable and on edge
and she was unusually trying. The whole matter was
set-tied and her outfit had been bought and there was no
sense in starting up an argument again, but she suddenly
chose to make a grievance of it. I have no doubt
she sensed the tension in the air and that it reacted on
her as much as on everybody else. I am afraid
I was too preoccupied with my own thoughts to try
to check her, as I should have done. It all ended with her
flinging a paperweight at Mr. Crale and dashing
wildly out of the room.
I went after her and told her sharply that I
was ashamed of her behaving like a baby, but she was still very uncon. trolled, and I thought it best to leave her
I hesitated as to whether to go to Mrs Crale's
room, but I decided in the end that it would, perhaps,
annoy her. I wish since that I had overcome my
diffidence and insisted on her talking to me. If she
had done so, it might possibly have made a
difference. She had no one, you see, in whom she could
confide. Although I admire self-con.
156 Made In Reed trol, I must
regretfully admit that sometimes it can be carried too
far. A natural outlet to the feelings is better.
I met Mr. Crale as I went along to my
room. He said good night, but I did not answer.
The next morning was, I remember, a beautiful
day. One felt when waking that surely with such peace
all around even a man must come to his senses.
I went into Angela's room before going down
to breakfast, but she was already up and out. I picked up
a torn skirt which she had left lying on the floor
and took it down with me for her to mend after breakfast.
She had, however, obtained bread and
marmalade from the kitchen and gone out. After I had had my own breakfast I went in search of her. I
mention this to explain why I was not more with Mrs.
Crale on that morning as perhaps I should have been. At
the time, however, I felt it was my duty to look for
Angela. She was very naughty and obstinate about
mending her clothes and I had no intention of allowing
her to defy me in the matter.
Her bathing dress was missing and I accordingly went down
to the beach. There was no sign of her in the water or
on the rocks so I conceived it possible that she had
gone over to Mr. Meredith Blake's. She and he
were great friends. I accordingly rowed myself across and resumed
my search. I did not find her and eventually
returned. Mrs. Crale, Mr. Blake, and
Mr. Philip Blake were on the terrace.
It was very hot that morning if one was out of the wind, and the
house and terrace were sheltered. Mrs. Crale
suggested they might like some iced beer.
There was a little conservatory which had been built onto
the house in Victorian days. Mrs. Crale
disliked it, and it was not used for plants, but it had
been made into a kind of bar, with various bottles of
gin, vermouth, lemonade, ginger beer, etc., on
shelves, and a small refrigerator which was
filled with ice every morning and in which some beer and ginger
beer were always kept. Mrs. Crale went there to get the beer and I went
Murder In Retrospect 157 her. Angela was
at the refrigerator and was just taking out a bottle of
Mrs. Crale went in ahead of me. She said,
"I want a bottle of beer to take down
It is so difficult now to know whether I ought to have
suspected anything. Her voice, I feel almost
convinced, was perfectly normal. But I must admit
that at that moment I was intent, not on her, but on
Angela. Angelacc"was by the refrigerator and
I was glad to see that she looked red and rather guilty.
I was rather sharp with her, and to my surprise she was quite
meek. I asked her where she had been and she said she
had been bathing. I said, "I didn t see you on
the beach." And she laughed. Then I asked her where
her jersey was, and she said she must have left it down
on the beach.
I mention these details to explain why I let
Mrs. C, rale take the beer down to the
The rest of the morning is quite blank in my mind.
Angela fetched her needle book and mended her skirt without any more fuss. I rather think that I mended
some of the household linen. Mr. Ca'ale did not
come up for lmtch. I was glad that he had at least
After lunch, Mrs. Grale said she was going down
to the Battery. I wanted to retrieve Angela's
jersey from the beach. We started down together. She went
into the Battery; I was going on when her cry called
me back. As I told you when you came to see me,
she asked me to go up and telephone. On the way
up I met Mr. Meredith Blake and I went
back to Mrs. Crale.
That was my story as I told it at the inquest and
later at the trial.
What I am about to write down I have never told
to any living soul. I was not asked any question to which I
returned an untrue answer. Nevertheless, I
guilty of withholding certain facts. I do not
repent of that. I would do it again. I am fully
aware that in revealing this I may be laying myself open
to censure, but I do not think that
158 Murder In Retrospect after this lapse of
time anyone will take the matter very seriously,
especially since Caroline Crale was convicted without my evidence.
This, then, is what happened:
I met Mr. Meredith Blake as I said and I
ran down the path again as quickly as I could. I was
wearing sand shoes and I have always been light on my
feet. I came to the open Battery door and this is
what I saw:
Mrs. Crale was busily polishing the beer
bottle on the table with her handkerchief. Having done
so, she took her dead husband's hand and pressed the
fingers of it on the beer bottle. All the time she was
listening and on the alert. It was the fear I saw on
her face that told me the truth.
I knew then, beyond any possible doubt, that
Caroline Crale had poisoned her husband. And
I, for one, do not blame her. He drove her to a
point beyond human endurance, and he brought his fate
I never mentioned the incident to Mrs. Crale and she
never knew that I had seen it take place. I would
never have mentioned it to anybody, but there is one person
who I think has a right to know.
Caroline Crale's daughter must not bolster up her
life with a lie. However much it may pain her to know the
truth, truth is the only thing that matters. Tell her, from me, that her mother is not to be judged.
She was driven beyond what a loving woman can endure.
It is for her daughter to understand and forgive.
(end of Cecilia, WiIliamgs Narrative)
NARRATIVE OF ANGELA WARREN
Dear M. Poirot:
I am keeping my promise to you and have written down
all I can remember of that terrible time sixteen
years ago. But it was not until I started that I
realized how very little
remember. Until the thing actually happened, you
see, there is nothing to fix anything by.
The very first intimation I had of the whole thing was what I
overheard from the terrace where I had escaped after
lunch one day. Elsa said she was going to marry
Amyasl It struck me as just ridiculous. I
remember tackling Amyas about it. In the garden at
Handcross it was. I said to him, "Why does
Elsa say she's going to marry you? She couldn't.
People can't have two wives-it s bigamy and they go
Amyas got very angry and said, "How the devil
did you hear that?"
I said I'd heard it through the library window.
He was angrier than ever then and said it was high time I went to school and got out of the habit of
I still remember the resentment I felt when he said
that. Because it was so
Absolutely and utterly unfair.
I stammered out angrily that I hadn't been
listening- and, anyhow, I said, why did Elsa say
a silly thing like that? Amyas said it was just a joke.
That ought to have satisfied me. It did-almost, but not quite.
I said to Elsa when we were on the way back, "I
asked Amyas what you meant when you said you were going
to marry him and he said it was just a joke."
I felt that ought to snub her. But she only smiled.
I didn't like that smile of hers. I went up
to Caroline's room. It was when she was dressing for
dinner. I asked her then outright if it were possible for
Amyas to marry Elsa.
I remember Caroline's answer as though I heard
it now. She must have spoken with great emphasis.
"Amyas will marry Elsa only after I
am dead," she said. That reassured me completely.
Death seemed ages away from us all.
I don t remember much about the afternoon at Meredith Blake's, although I do remember his reading aloud the passage from the
describing Socrates's death. I had never heard
it before. I thought it was the loveliest, most beautiful
thing I had ever heard.
I don't remember much that happened the next
morning either, though have thought and thought. I've a vague feeling that 1
mut have bathed, and I think were re
member being made to mend something.
But it's all very vague and dim till the time when
Meredith came panting up the path from the terrace and
his face was all gray and queer. I remember a
coffee cup falling off the table and being broken-Elsa did that. And I remember her running-suddenly running for all she was worth down the path-and the awful look there was on her face.
I kept saying to myself, "Amyas is dead." But it
just didn't seem real. I remember Dr.
Faussett coming and his grave face.
Miss Williams was busy looking after Caroline.
I wandered about rather forloruly, getting in people s way.
I had a nasty, sick feeling.
Miss Williams took me into Caroline's room
later. Caroline was on the sofa. She looked very white and i11. She kissed me and said she war, ted
me to go away as soon as I could, and it was all
horrible, but I wasn't to worry or think about it
any more than I could help. I was to join Carla at
Lady Tressilian's, because this house was to be
kept as empty as possible.
I clung to Caroline and said I didn't want to go
away. I wanted to stay with her. She said she knew
I did, but it was better for me to go away and would
take a lot of worry off her mind. And Miss
Williams chipped in and said, "The best way you can
help your sister, Angela, is to do what she
wants you to do without making a fuss about it."
So I said I would do whatever Caroline wished. And
Caroline said, "That's my darling, Angela." And
she hugged me and said there was nothing to worry about.
I had to go down and talk to a police
superintendent. He was very kind, asked me when I
had last seen Amyas, and a lot of other questions which
seemed to me quite pointless at the time, but which,
of course, I see the point of now. He
satisfied himself that there was nothing that I could tell him
which he hadn't already heard from the others. So he told
Miss Williams that he saw no objection to my
going over to Ferrilby Grange to Lady Tressilian's.
I went there, and Lady Tressilian was very kind
to me. But, of course, I soon had to know the truth.
They arrested Caroline almost at once. I was so
horrified and dumfounded that I became quite ill.
I heard afterward that Caroline was terribly worried
about me. It was at her insistence that I was sent out of
England before the trial came on. But that I have told
As you see, what I have to put down is pitiably
meager. Since talking to you I have gone over the little
I remember painstakingly, racking my memory for
details of this or that person's expression or
reaction. I can remember nothing consistent with
guilt. Elsa's frenzy, Meredith's gray,
worried face, Philip's grief and fury-they
all seem natural enough. I suppose, though,
have been playing a part.
I only. know this,
Caroline did not do it.
I am quite certain on this point and always shall be, but I
have no evidence to offer except my own intimate knowledge
of her character.
(end of Angela Warren's Narrative) Carla Lemarchant looked up. Her eyes were
full of fatigue and pain. She pushed back the
hair from her forehead in a tired gesture.
She said, "It's so bewildering, all this." She
touched the pile of manuscripts. "Because the
angle's different every timel Everybody sees my mother
differently. But the facts
are the same. Everyone agrees on the facts."
"It has discouraged you, reading them?" "Yes.
Hasn't it discouraged you?"
"No, I have found those documents very valuable--very
informative." He spoke slowly and
Carla said, "I wish I d never read them!"
Poirot looked across at her. "Ah--so it makes
you feel that way?"
Carla said bitterly, "They all think she did
it--all of them except Aunt Angela, and what
she thinks doesn't
162 Murder In Retrospect count. She
hasn't got any reason for it. She's just one of
those loyal people who'll stick to a thing through thick and
thin. She just goes on saying, 'Caroline couldn't have
"It strikes you like that?" "How else should it strike me? I've realized, you
know, that if my mother didn't do it, then one of these
five people must have done it. I've even had theories as
"Ah? That is interesting. Tell me."
they were only theories. Philip Blake, for
instance. He's a stockbroker, he was my father's
best friend-prob-ably my father trusted him. And
artists are usually careless about money matters.
Perhaps Philip Blake was in a jam and used my
father's money. He may have got my father to sign
something. Then the whole thing may have been on the point
of coming out--and only my father's death could have saved him.
That's one of the things I thought of."
"Not badly imagined at all. What else?"
"Well, there's Elsa. Philip Blake says
here she had her head screwed on too well
to meddle with poison, but I don't think
that's true at all. Supposing my mother had gone
to her and told her that she wouldn't divorce my father-that nothing would induce her to divorce him. You may
say what you like but I think Elsa had a bourgeois
mind--she wanted to be respectably married, i
think that then Elsa would have been perfectly capable of
pinching the stuff-she had just as good a chance that afternoon --and might have tried to get my mother out of the way by poisoning
her. I think that would be quite
Elsa. And then, possibly, by some awful accident,
Amyas got the stuff instead of Caroline."
"Again it is not badly imagined. What else?"
Carla said slowly, "Well I thought--perhaps-Mere.
"Ahl Meredith Blake?"
"Yes. You see, he sounds to me just the sort of
Murder In Retrospect 163 who would do a
murder. I mean, he was the slow, dithering one the
others laughed at, and underneath, perhaps, he resented
that. Then my father married the girl he wanted
to marry. And my father was successful and rich. And
Meredith did make all those poisonsl
Perhaps he really made them because he liked the idea of
being able to kill someone one day. He had to call
attention to the stuff being taken so as to divert
suspicion from himself. But he himself was far the most
likely person to have taken it. He might, even, have
liked getting Caroline hanged-because she turned him
down long ago. I think, you know, it s rather fishy what he says in his account of it all-how people do things
that aren't characteristic of them. Supposing he meant
when he wrote that?"
Hercule Poirot said, "You are at least right in
this-not to take what has been written down as
necessarily a true narrative. What has been
written may have been written deliberately
I know. I've kept that in mind."
"Any other ideas?"
Carla said slowly, "I wondered-before I'd read
this--about Miss Williams. She lost her job, you
see, when An-gela went to school. And if
Amyas had died suddenly, Angela probably
wouldn't have gone after all. I mean, if t passed
off as a natural death-wh it easily
might have Jcceane, I suppose, if Meredith
hadn't missed the coniine. I read up on
coniine and it hasn't any distinctive postmortem
appearances. It might have been thought to be
sunstroke. I know that just losing a job doesn't
sound a very adequate motive for murder. But
murders have been committed again and again for what seem
ridiculously inadequate motives. Tiny sums of money sometimes. And a middle-aged, perhaps rather
incompetent governess might have got the wind up and just
seen no future ahead of her.
I say, that's what I thought before I read this. But
Miss Williams doesn't sound like that at all.
She doesn't sound in the least incompetent--was
"Not at all. She is still a very efficient and
"I know. One can see that. And she sounds
absolutely trustworthy, too. That's what has
upset me really. Oh, you know--you understand. You
don't mind, of course. All along you've made
it clear it was the truth you wanted. I suppose now
truthl Miss Williams is quite right.
One must accept truth. It s no good basing your
life on a lie because it's what you want to believe.
All right, then--I can take it! My mother wasn't
innocentl She wrote me that letter because she was wak and
unhappy and wanted to spare me. I don't judge
her. Perhaps I should feel like that, too. I don't
know what prison does to you. And I don't blame
her, either--if she felt so desperately about my father, I suppose she couldn't help herself. But disI
don't blame my father altogether, either. I understand-- just a
felt. So alive and so full of wanting everything-He couldn't help it--he was made that way. And he
was a great painter. I think that excuses a lot."
She turned her flushed, excited face to Hercule
Poirot with her chin raised defiantly.
"So you are satisfied?" Poirot said.
"Satisfied?" said Carla Lemarchant. Her
voice broke on the word.
Poirot leaned forward and patted her paternally on
the shoulder. "Listen," he said. "You ,give up the
fight at the moment when it is most worth fighting.
At the moment when I, Hercule Poirot, have a very
good idea of what really happened."
Carla stared at him. She said, "Miss
Williams loved my mother. She saw her--with her
own eyes--faking that suicide evidence. If you
believe what she says-was
Hercule Poirot got up. "Mademoiselle,"
he said, "because Cecilia Williams says she
saw your mother faking Amyas Crale s fingerprints
on the beer bottle--on the beer
bottle, mind'that is the one thing I need to tell me
definitely, once for all, that your mother did not
kill your father."
He nodded his head several times and went out of the
room, leaving Carla staring after him.
"Well, M. Poirot?"
Philip Blake's tone was impatient.
Poirot said, "I have to thank you for your admirable and
lucid account of, the Crale tragedy."
Philip Blake looked rather self-conscious. "Very
kind of you," he murmured. "Really surprising how
much I remembered when I got down to it."
Poirot said, "It was an admirably clear
there were certain omissions, were there not?" "Omissions?"
Phiddlip Blake frowned.
Hercule Poirot saitl, "Your narrative, shall
we say, was not entirely frank." His tone
have been informed, Mr. Blake, that on at least one
night during the summer Mrs. Crale was seen coming
out of your room at a somewhat compromising hour."
There was a silence broken only by Philip
Blake's heavy breathing. He said at last, "Who told you that?"
Hercule Poirot shook his head. "It is no
matter who told me. That I
that is the point."
Again there was a silence, then Philip Blake made
up his mind. He said, "By accident, it seems, you
have stumbled upon a purely private matter. I
admit that it does not square with what I have written
down. Nevertheless, it squares better than you might
think. I am forced now to tell you the truth.
entertain a feeling of animosity toward Caroline
Crale. At the same time I was always strongly
attracted by her. Perhaps the latter fact
induced the former. I resented the power she had over
me and tried to stifle the attraction she had for me
by constantly dwelling on her worst points. I never
her, if you understand. But it would have been easy at any
moment for me to make love to her. I had been in
love with her as a boy and she had taken no notice
of me. I did not find that easy to forgive.
"My opportunity came when Amyas lost his head
so 166 Murder In Retrospect completely over
the Greer girl. Quite without meaning to, I found myself
telling Caroline I loved her. She said quite
calmly, "Yes, I have always known that." The
insolence of the womanl
"Of course, I knew that she didn't love me,
but I saw that she was disturbed and disillusioned
by Amyas's present infatuation. That is a mood
when a woman can very easily be won. She agreed
to come to me that night. And she came."
Blake paused. He found now a difficulty in
getting the words out. "She came to my room. And
then, with my arms around her, she told me quite coolly
that it was no goodl After all, she said, she was a
one-man woman. She was Amyas
Crale's, for better or worse. She agreed that
she had treated me very badly, but she said she couldn't
help it. She asked me to forgive her.
"And she left me.
She left met
Do you wonder, M. Poirot, that my hatred of her
was heightened a hundredfold? Do you wonder that I
have never forgiven her? For the insult she did me, as
well as for the fact that she killed the friend I loved
better than anyone in the worldl" Trembling violently, Philip Blake
"I don't want to speak of it,
do you hear? You've got your answer. Now gol And
never mention the matter to me agt"
"I want to know, Mr. Blake, the order in which your
guests left the laboratory that day."
Meredith Blake protested, "But, my dear M.
Poirot--after sixteen yearsl How can I
possibly remember? I've
told you that Caroline came out last." "You are
flaat?" "Yes--at least--I think so."
"Let us go there now. We must be sure, you see." Still protesting, Meredith Blake
led the way. He unlocked the door and swung
back the shutters. Poirot spoke to him
authoritatively. "Now, then, my friend. You have
showed your visitors your interesting preparations of
herbs. Shut your eyes and think."
Murder In Retrospect 167 Meredith Blake
did so obediently. Poirot drew a handkerchief
from his pocket and gently passed it to and fro.
Blake murmured, his nostrils twitching
slightly, " Yes, yes --extraordinary how things come back to oriel Caroline, I remember,
had on a pale coffee-colored dress. Phil was
looking bored. He always thought my hobby was quite
now," Poirot said. "You are about to leave the room.
You are going to the library, where you are going to read the
passage about the death of Socrates. Who leaves
the room first-do you?"
"Elsa and I-yes. She passed through the door first.
I was close behind her. We were talking. I stood
there waiting.for the others to come, so that I could lock the
door again. Philip--yes, Philip came out
next. And Angela--she was asking him
what bulls and bears were. They went on through the
hall. Amyas followed them. I stood there waiting
still-for Caroline, of course."
"So you are quite sure Caroline stayed behind. Did you
see what she was doing?"
Blake shook his head. "No, I had my back
to the room, you see. I was talking to Elsa-boring
her, I expect--tell-mg her how certain
plants must be gathered at the full of the moon, according
to old superstition. And then Caroline came
out-hurrying a little--and I locked the door." He stopped and looked at Poirot, who was
replacing a handkerchief in his pocket. Meredith
Blake sniffed disgustedly and thought,
Why, the fellow actually uses
scent! Aloud he said, "I am quite sure of it. That
was the order: Elsa, myself, Philip, Angela,
and Caroline. Does that help you at all?"
Poirot said, "It all fits in. Listen, I
want to arrange a meeting here. It will not, I think,
Elsa Dittisham said it almost eagerly-like a child.
Poirot said, "I want to ask you a question,
Poirot said, "After it was all over--the trial,
I mean-- did Meredith Blake ask you to marry
Elsa stared. She looked contemptuous, almost
bored. "Yes-he did. Why?"
"Were you surprised?" "Was I? I don't
remember." "@vhat did you say?"
Elsa laughed. She said, "What do you think I
It would have been ridiculousl It was stupid of him. He always was rather stupid."
She smiled suddenly. " He, wanted, you know,
to protect me-to "look after me," that s how
he put it[ He thought, like everybody else, that the
assizes had been a terrible ordeal for me. And the
reportersl And the booing crowdsl And all the mud that
was slung at me. " She brooded a minute.
Then she said, "Poor old Meredith! Such an
assl" And laughed again.
Once disag Hercule Poirot encountered the
shrewd, tPhenetratmg glance of Miss
Williams, aad once again felt
e years falling away and himself a meek and
There was, he explained, a question he wished to ask.
Miss Williams intimated her willingness to hear
what the question was.
Poirot said slowly, picking his words carefully,
"Angela Warren was injured as a very young child. Mrs.
threw a paperweight at her. Is that right?"
Miss Williams replied, "Yes." "Who was
"Angela herselLike She volunteered the information quite early."
"What did she say exactly?"
"She touched her cheek and said, "Caroline did this
when I was a baby. She threw a paperweight at
me. Never refer to it-will you?--because it upsets her
"Did Mrs. Crale herself ever mention the
Murder In Retrospect 169 "Only
obliquely. She assumed that I knew the story.
I remember her saying once, "I know you think
I spoil An-gela, but, you see, I always feel
there is nothing I can do to make up to her for
what I did." And on another occa. sion she
said, "To know you have permanently injured another
human being is the heaviest burden anyone could have
"Thank you, Miss Williams. That is all I
wanted to know.
Poirot slowed up a little as he approached the big
block of flats overlooking Regent s Park.
Really, when he came to think of it, he did not
want to ask Angela Warren any questions at all.
The only question he did want to ask her could wait.
No, it was really only his insatiable passion for.
sym. metry that was bringing him here. Five people-there should be five questionsl It was heater so. It rounded off the thing
Angela Warren greeted him with something closely
ap-proachmgthing? Have" eagerneSSDDYOU got
anywnere@cShe said,- .,ea?Have you found out any.
SloWly Poirot nodded his head in his best
china-man. darifi manner. "At last I make
progress," he said.
"Philip Blake?" It was halfway between statement
and a question.
"Mademoiselle, I do not wish to say anything at
present. The moment has not yet come.
What I will ask of you is to be so good as to come down
to Handcross Manor. The others have consented."
She said, with a slight frown, "What do you propose
to do? Reconstruct something that happened sixteen
"See it, perhaps, from a clearer angle. You will
come?", "Oh, yes, I'll come," Angela
Warren said slowly. "It will be interesting to see all
those people again. I shall see
now, perhaps, from a clearer angle (as you put it) than
I did then."
"And you will bring with you the letter that you showed me?" Angela Warren frowned. "That letter is my own. I
showed it to you for a good and sufficient reason, but I have
no intention of allowing it to be read by strange and
"But you will allow yourself to be guided by me in the
"I will do nothing of the kind. I will bring the letter with me,
but I shall use my own Judgeaeaent, which I venture
to. think is quite disz good as. yours. His
Potrot spread out his hands m a gesture of
resignation. He got up to go. He said, "You
permit that I ask one little question?"
"What is it?"
"At the time of the tragedy, you had lately read-had
you not?-a life of the painter Gauguin."
Angela stared at him. Then she said, "I believe
--why, yes, that is quite true." She looked at him
with flank curiosity. "How did you know?"
"I want to show you, mademoiselle, that even
irl a small, unimportant matter I aeam
something of a magician. There are things I know without
having to be told."
The afternoon sun shone into the laboratory at Handcross Manor. Some easy chairs and a settee
had been brought into the room, but they served more
to emphasize its forlorn aspect than to furnish it.
Slightly embarrassed, pulling at his mustache,
Meredith Blake talked to Carla in a desultory
way. He broke off once to say, "My dear, you
are very like your mother-and yet unlike her, too."
Carla asked, "How am I like her and how
"You have her coloring and her way of moving, but you
are-how shall I put it--more
than she ever was."
Philip Blake, a scowl creasing his forehead,
looked out of the window and drummed impatiently on the
pane. He said, "What's the sense of all this? A
Hercule Poirot hastened to pour oil on troubled
waters. "Ah, I apologize-it is, I know,
unpardonable to disarrange the golf. But, M.
Blake, this is the daughter of your
best friend. You will stretch a point for her, will you not?
" The butler announced, "Miss Warren."
Meredith went to welcome her. He said, "It's good
of you to spare the time, Angela. You're busy, I
know." He le her over to the window. Carla said, "Hullo, Aunt, Angela[ I
read your article in
this morning. It s nice to have a distinguished
relative." She indicated the tall,
square-jawed young man with the steady gray eyes. "This
is John Rattery. He and I--hope-to be
Angela Warren said, "Ohl I didn't know--was
Meredith went to greet the next arrival.
"Well, Miss.Williams, it's a good
many years since we
Thin, frail, and indomitable, the elderly governess
advanced up the room. Her eyes rested thoughtfully
on Poirot for a minute, then they went to the tall,
"square-shouldered figure in the well-cut tweeds.
Angela Warren came forward to meet her and said with a
smile, "I feel like a schoolgirl again."
"I'm very proud of you, my dear," said Miss
Williams. "Yotfve done me credit. This is
Carla, I suppose? She won't remember me.
She was too young."
Philip Blake said fretfully, "What
all this? Nobody told me-was Hercule Poirot said, "I call it-me-an
excursion into the past. Shall we not all sit down?
Then we shall be ready when the last guest arrives. And
when she is here we can proceed to our business--to lay
Philip Blake exclaimed, "What tomfoolery
is this? You're not going to hold a sance, are you?"
"No, no. We are only going to discuss some
events that happened long ago-to discuss them and,
perhaps, to see more clearly the course of them.
As to the ghosts, they
172 Murder In Retrospect will not
materialize, but who is to say they are not here, in this
room, although we cannot see them. Who is to say that
Amyas and Caroline Crale are not here--listening?"
Philip Blake said, "Absurd nonsense-was and
broke off as the door opened again and the butler
announced Lady Dittisham.
ELSA DrrrlsRAM came in with that faint,
bored insolence that was a characteristic of hers. She gave
Meredith a slight smile, stared coldly at
Angela and Philip, and went over to a chair by the
window a little apart from the others. She loosened the
rich, pale furs round her neck and let them fall back. She looked for a minute or two about the
room, at Carla, and the girl stared back,
thoughtfully appraising the woman who had wrought the
havoc in her
arents' lives There was no animosity in her young,
nest face, only curiosity. Elsa said, "I
am sorry if I am late, M.
Poirot." "It was very good of you to come, madame."
Cecilia Williams snorted ever so slightly.
Elsa met the animosity in her eyes with a complete
lack of interest. She said, "I wouldn't have known
Angela. How long is it? Sixteen years?"
Hercule Poirot seized his opportunity.
"Yes, it is sixteen years since the events of which
we are to speak, but let me first tell you why we are
here." And in a few simple words he outlined
Carla s appeal to him and his acceptance of the task.
He went on quickly, ignoring the gathering storm
visible on Philip's face and the shocked distaste
on Mere- dith's. "I accepted that commission. I
set to work to find out-- the truth." Carla
Lemarchant, in the big grandfather chair, heard Poirot's words dimly, from a distance. With her hand
shielding her eyes she studied five faces
surreptitiously. Could she see any of these people
committing murder? Could she-if she tried
hard-visualize one of them killing someone? Yes,
perhaps; but it wouldn't be the right
174 Murder In Retrospect kind of murder.
She could picture Philip Blake, in an
outburst of fury, strangling some woman-yes, she
picture that. And she could picture Meredith
Blake threatening a burglar with a revolver--and
letting it off by accident. And she could picture
Angela Warren, also fng a revolver, but not
by accident. With no personal feeling in the matter-the safety of the expedition depended on it! And
Elsa, in some fantastic castle, saying from her
couch of Oriental silks, "Throw the wretch over
the battle- mentsl"
All wild fancies-and not even in the wildest
flight Of fancy could she imagine little Miss
Williams killing anybody at alll
Hercule Poirot-as talking. "That was my
task-to put myself in reverse gear, as it were, and go back through the years and discover what really
Philip Blake said, "We all know what
happened. To pretend anything else is a
swindle-that's what it is, a barefaced swindle.
You're getting money out of this girl on false
Poirot did not aUow himself to be angered. He
said, "You say, "We all know what
happened." You speak without reflection. The
accepted versmn of certain facts is not
necessarily the true one. On the face of it, for
instance, you, Mr. Blake, disliked Caroline
Ca'ale. That is the accepted version of your
attitude. But anyone with the least flair for
psychology can perceive at once that the exact
opposite was the truth. You were always violently
attracted toward Caroline Cxale. You resented
the fact, and tried to conquer it by steadfastly telling
yourself her defects and reiterating your dislike.
"In the same way, Mr. Meredith Blake had a
tradition of devotion to Caroline Crale lasting
over many years. In his story of the tragedy he
represents himself as resenting Amyas Crale's
her account, but you have only to read carefully between the lines
and you will see that the devotion of a lifetime had worn
itself thin and that it was the young, beautiful Elsa Greer
that was occupying
mind and thoughts."
There was a splutter from Meredith, and Lady
Poirot went on. "I mention these matters only
as illustrations, though they have their bearing on what
happened. And I learned these facts:
""That at no time did Caroline Crale protest
(except in that one letter written to her daughter).
"That Caroline Crale showed no fear in the dock;
that she showed, in fact, hardly any interest; that she
adopted throughout a thoroughly defeatist attitude.
That in prison she was quiet and serene. That in a letter
she wrote to her sister immediately after the verdict she
expressed herself as acquiescent in the fate that had
overtaken her. And in the opinion of everyone I
talked to (with one notable exception)
Caroline Crale was guilty."
Philip Blake nodded his head.
"Of course she wasl" Hercule Poirot said, "But it
was not my part to accept the verdict of
I had to examine the evidence for
To examine the facts and to satisfy myself that the
psychology of the case accorded itself with them. To do this
I went over the police files carefully
and I also succeeded in getting the five people who were on
the spot to write me out their own accounts of the
tragedy. These accounts were very valuable, for they contained
certain matter which the police files could not give
me--that is to say: A, certain conversations and
incidents which, from the police point of view, were not
relevant; B, the opinions of the people themselves as
to what Caroline Crale was thinking andfeeling (not
admissible legally as evidence) be C, certain
facts which had been deliberately withheld from the
"I was in a position now to judge the case for
There seems no doubt whatever that Caroline Crale
had ample motive for the crime. She loved her
husband, he had publicly admitted that he was about
to leave her for another woman, and by her own admission
she was a jealous woman. "To come from motives to means-an empty scent
bottle that had contained coniine was found in her
bureau drawer. There were no fingerprints upon it but
hers. When asked about it by the police she admitted
taking it from this room we are in now. The coniine
bottle here also had her fingerprints upon it. I questioned
Mr. Mere. dith Blake as to the order in
which the people left this room on that day, for it seemed to me
hardly conceivable that
should be able to help himself to the poison whffle five people
were in the room.
The people left the room in this order: Elsa Greer,
Meredith Blake, Angela Warren and Philip
Blake, Amyas Crale, and lastly Caroline
Crale. Moreover, Mr. Meredith Blake had
his back to the room while he was waiting for Mrs.
Crale to come out, so that it was impossible for him to see
what she wasbleloing. She had, that is to say, the
opportunity. I am therefore satisfied that she did
take the coniine. There is indirect confirmation of
Meredith Blake said to me the other day, 'I can
remember standing here and smelling the jasmine through the o.pen window." But the month was September, and the
jasmine creeper outside that window would have finished
flowering. It is the ordinary jasmine which blooms in
June and July. But the scent bottle found in her
room and which contained the dregs of coniine had
originally contained jasmine scent. I take it as
certain, then, that Mrs. Crale decided
to steal the coniine, and surreptitiously emptied out
the scent from a bottle she had in her bag.
"I tested that a secofid time the other day when I
asked Mr. Blake to shut his eyes and try and
remember the order of leaving the room. A whiff of
jasmine scent stimulated his memory immediately. We
are all more influenced by smell than we know.
"So we come to the morning of the fatal day. So far the
facts are not in dispute. Miss Greer's sudden
revealing of the fact that she and Mr. Crale
contemplate marriage, Amyas Crale's
confirmation of that, and Caroline Crale's deep
distress. None of these things depend on the evidence
of one witness only.
the following morning there is a scene between husband and
wife in the library. The first thing that is overheard
is Caroline Crale saying, "You and your
womenl" in a hitter voice and finally going on to say, "Some day I'll kill you." Philip
Blake overheard this from the hall. And Miss
Greer overheard it from the terrace outside. "She
then heard Mr. Crale ask his wife to be
reasonable. And she heard Mrs. Crale say,
"Sooner than let you go to that girl-I'll kill you." Soon after this, Amyas comes out
and brusquely tells Elsa Greer to come down and
pose for him. She gets a pull-over and
accompanies him. "There is nothing so far that seems
psychologically, incorrect. Everyone has behaved
as he or she might be expected to behave. But we
come now to something that
incongruous. "Meredith Blake discovers his loss,
telephones his brother. They meet down at the landing
stage and they come disup past the Battery Garden, where
Caroline Crale is hay- mg a discussion with her
husband on the subject of An- gela's going
to school. Now, that does strike me as very odd.
Husband and wife have a terrific scene, ending in a
distinct threat on Caroline's part, and yet, twenty
minutes or so later, she goes down and starts a
trivial domestic argument." Poirot turned
to Meredith Blake. "You speak in your narrative of certain words you overheard Crale say. These were:
"It's all settled--I'U see to her
packing." That is right?" Meredith Blake said,
"It was something like that--yes." Poirot turned
to Philip Blake. "Is your recollection the
same?" The latter frowned. "I didn't
remember it till you say so, but I do remember
now. Something was said about packingl" "Said by Mr.
Crale-not Mrs. Crale?" "Amyas said it.
All I heard Caroline say was something about its being
very hard on the girl. Anyway, what does
178 Murder In Retrospect all this matter?
We all know Angela was off to school in a day or
Poirot said, "You do not see the force of my
objection. Why should
pack for the girl? It is absurd, thatl There was
Mrs. Crale, there was Miss Williams, there was
a housemaid. It is a woman's job to pack-not
"What does it matter?" Philip Blake said
impatiently. "It has nothing to do with the crime."
"You think not? For me, it was the first point that struck
me as suggestive. And it is immediately followed
by another. Mrs. Crale, a desperate woman, brokenhearted, who has threatened her husband a
short while before and who is certainly contemplating
either suicide or murder, now offers in the most
amicable manner to bring her husband down some iced
Meredith Blake said slowly, "That isn't odd if
she was contemplating murder. Then, surely, it is
just what she
"You think so? She has decided to poison her
husband; she has already got the poison. Her
husband keeps a supply Of beer down in the
Battery Garden. Surely, if she has any
intelligence at all she will put the poison in one
bottles at a moment when there is no one about."
Meredith Blake objected. "She couldn't have done
that. Somebody else might have drunk it."
"Yes, Elsa Greer. Do you tell me that having
made up her mind to murder her husband, Caroline
Crale would have scruples against killing the girl,
"But let us not argue the point. Let us confine ourselves to facts. Caroline Crale says she will
send her husband down some iced beer. She goes up
to the house, fetches a bottle from the conservatory,
where it was kept, and takes it down to him. She pours
it out and gives it to him'. Am-yas
Crale drinks it off and says, "Everything tastes
"Mrs. Crale goes up again to the house. She
has lunch and appears much as usual. It has been
said of her that
Mmler In Retrospect 179 she looks a little
worried and preoccupied. That does not help us, for
there is no criterion of behavior for a murderer.
There are calm murderers and excited murderers.
"After lunch she goes down again to the Battery. She
discovcrs her husband dead, and does, shall we say,
the obviously expected things. She registers
emotion and she sends the governcss to tclephonc for a
doctor. Weeaeanow come to a fact which has
previously not been known. He looked at Miss
Williams. "You do not object?"
Miss Williams was rather pale. She said, "I
did not pledge you to secrecy."
Quietly, but with telling effect, Poirot
recounted what the governess had seen.
Elsa Dittisham moved her position. She stared at the drab little woman in the big chair. She said
incredulously, "You actually saw her do
Philip Blake sprang up. "But that
settles it!" he shouted. "That settles it once
and for all."
Herculc Poirot looked at him mildly. He
said, "Not necessarily."
Angela Warren said sharply, "I don't believe
it." There was a quick, hostile glint in the glance she
shot at the little governess.
Meredith Blake was pulling at his mustache, his
face dismayed. Alone, Miss Williams
remained undisturbed. She sat very upright and there was
a spot of color in each check. She said, "That
is what I saw."
Poixot said slowly, "There is, of course, only
your word for it."
"There is only my word for it." The indomitable
gray eyes met his. "I am not accustomed, M.
Poirot, to having my word doubted."
Hercule Poirot bowed his head. He said, "I do
not doubt your word, Miss Williams. What you
saw took place exactly as you say it did, and
because of what you saw I realized that Caroline Cralc was not guilty--could not possibly be
For the first time, that tall, anxious-faced young man,
John Kattery, spoke. He said,
"I'd be interested to know
you say that, M. Poirot."
Poirot turned to him. "Certainly. I will tell
you. What did Miss Williams see? She saw
Caroline Crale very carefully and anxiously wiping
off fingerprints and subsequently imposing her
deadhusband's fingerprints on the beer bottle. On
mark. But the coniine was in the lass--not in the
bottle. The police found no traces of conime
in the bottle. There had never been any coniine in
And Caroline Crale didn't know that.
"She, who is supposed to have poisoned her husband,
didn't know how hehad been poisoned. She thought
the poison was in the bottle."
Meredith objected. "But why---was
Poirot interrupted him in a iiash.
Why did Caroline Crale try so desperately to establish the theory of suicide. The answer
is-must be--quite simple. Because she knew who had
poisoned him and she was willing to do
anything-endure anything--rather than let that person be
"There is not far to go now. Who could that person be?
Would she have shielded Philip Blake? Or
Meredith? Or Elsa Greer? Or Cecilia
Williams? No, there is only one
person whom she would be willing to protect at all
costs." He paused.
"Miss Warren, if you have brought your sister's last
letter with you, I should like to read it aloud."
"Angela Warren said, "No."
"But, Miss Warren-was
Angela got up. Her voice rang out, cold as
steel. "I realize very well what you are suggesting.
You are saying-- are you not?--that I killed Amyas
Craie and that my sister
knew it. I deny that allegation utterly."
Poirot said, "The letter--was
"That letter was meant for my eyes alone."
Poirot looked to where the two youhgest people in the
room stood together.
Carla Lemarchant said, "Please, Aunt Angela, won't
you do as M. Poirot asks?"
Angela Warren said bitterly, "Really,
Carlal Have you no sense of decency? She was your
Carla's voice rang out clear and fierce.
"Yes, she was my mother. That's why I've a right
to ask you. I'm speaking for
her. I want
that letter read."
Slowly Angela Warren took out the letter from her
bag and handed it to Poirot. She said bitterly,
"I wish I had never shown it to you."
Turning away from them she stood looking out of the
As Hercule Poirot read aloud Caroline
Crale's last letter, the shadows were deepening in the
corners of the room. Carla had a sudden feeling of
someone in the room, gathering shape, listening, breathing,
waiting. She thought: She s
here--my mother's here. CarolineCaroline @crale is
in this room!
Hercule Poirot's voice ceased. He said,
"You will all agree, I think, that that is a very
remarkable letter. A beautiful letter, too, but certainly remarkable. For there is one striking
omission in it--it contains no protestation of
Angela Warren said without turning her head, "That was
"Yes, Miss Warren, it was unnecessary. Caroline
Crale had no need to tell her sister that she was
innocent, because she thought her sister knew that fact
already--knew it for the best of all reasons. All
Caroline Crale was concerned about was to comfort and
reassure and to avert the possibility of a confession
from Angela. She reiterates again and agin-"It's all right, darling; it's all, all right.""
Angela Warren said, "Can't you understand? She
wanted me to be happy, that is all."
"Yes, she wanted you to be happy, that is
abundantly clear. It is her one preoccupation.
She has a child, but it is not that child of whom she is
thinking--that is to come later. No, it is her sister
who occupies her mind to the exclusion of everything
else. Her sister must be reassured,
must be encouraged to live her life, to be happy and
successful. And so that the burden of acceptance may not
be too great, Caroline includes that one very
significant phrase: "One must pay one's debts."
That one phrase explains everything. It
refers explicitly to the burden that Caroline has
carried for so many years, cvcr since, in a fit of
uncontrolled adolesccnt rage, she hurled a
paperweight at her baby sister and injured that sister
for life. Now, at last, she has the opportunity
to pay the dcbt she owes. And if it is any
consolation, I will say to you all that I earnestly
believe that in the pay- mcnt of that debt Caroline
Crale did achieve a peace and serenity greater
than any she had ever known. Because of her belief that
she was paying that dcbt, the ordeal of trial and
condemnation could not touch her. It is a strange thing
to say of a condemned murderess-but she had cvcrything to make her happy. Yes, more than you imagine,
as I will show you presently.
"See how, by this explanation, everything falls into its
place where Caroline's own reactions are concerned.
Look at the series of events from her point of
view. To begin with, on the preceding evening, an event
occurs which rc- minds her forcibly of her own
undisciplined girlhood. Angela throws a
at Amyas Crale. That, remember, is what she
herself did many years ago. Angela shouts out that she wishes Amyas was dead.
"Then, on the next morning, Caroline comes into the
little conservatory and finds Angela tampering with the
beer. Remember Miss Williams's words:
'Angela was there. She looked guilty."
Guilty of playing truant was what Miss
Williams meant; but to Caroline, Angela's
guilty face, as she was caught unawares, would have
a different meaning. Remember that on at least one
occasion before Angela had put things in Amyas's
drink. It was an idea which might readily occur
"Caroline takes the bottle
that Angela gives her
and goes down with it to the Battery. And there she pours
it out and gives it to Amyas, and he makes a face
as he tosses
Murder In Retrospect 183 it off and utters
those significant words-"Everything tastes foul
"Caroline has no suspicions then, but after lunch
she goes down to the Battery and finds her husband
dead--and she has no doubts at all but that he has
She has not done it. Who, then, has? And the
whole thing comes over her with a rush: Angela's
threats, Angela's face stooping over the beer and
Why has the child done it? As a revenge on
Amyas, perhaps not meaning to kill, just to make him ill
or sick? Or has she done it for her,
Caroline's sake? Has she realized and resented
Amyas's desertion of her sister?
"Caroline remembers--oh, so well--her own
undisciplined violent emotions at Angela's
age. And only one thought springs to her mind: How can
she protect Angela? Angela handled that
bottle--Angela's fingerprints will be on it. She
quickly wipes it and polishes it. If only
everybody can be got to believe it is suicide.
If Amyas's finger-fiprmts are the only ones
found. She tries to fit his dead ngers round the
bottle--working desperately, listening
for someone to come.
"Once take that assumption as true and everything from
then on fits in. Her anxiety about Angela
all along, her insistence on getting her away,
keeping her out of touch with what was going on. Her fear
of Angela's being questioned unduly by the police.
Finally her overwhelming anxiety to get Angela out of England before the trial comes on. Because
she is always terrified that Angela might break
down and confess."
Slowly, Angela Warren swung around. Her
eyes, hard and contemptuous, ranged over the faces
turned toward her.
She said, "You blind fools-all of you. Don't you
know that if I had done it I
have confessed? I'd never have let Caroline suffer for
what I'd done. Neverl"
"But you did tamper with the beer," Poirot said.
"I? Tamper with the beer?"
Poirot turned to Meredith Blake. "Listen,
In your account here of what happened you describe
having heard sounds in this room, which is below your
bedroom, on the morning of the crime."
Blake nodded. "But it was only a cat."
"How do you
it was a cat?"
"I--I can't remember. But it was a cat. I am
quite sure it was a cat. The window was open just wide enough
for a cat to get through." "But it was not fixed in that position. The sash moves
freely. It could have been pushed up and a human being
could have got in and out."
"Yes, but I know it was a cat."
"You did not
Blake said perplexedly and slowly, "No, I,
did not see it- He paused, frowning. And yet I
"I will tell you
you know presently. In the meantime I put this point
to you: Someone could have come up to the house that morning, have
got into your laboratory, taken something from the shelf,
and gone again without your seeing him or her. Now, if that
someone had come over from Alderbury it could not have been
Philip Blake, nor Elsa Greer, nor
Amyas Crale, nor Caroline Crale. We
know quite well what all those four were doing. That leaves
Angela Warren and Miss Williams.
"Miss Williams was over here--you actually met
her as you went out. She told you then that she was looking
for Angela. Angela had gone bathing early, but
Miss Williams did not see her in the
water, nor anywhere on the rocks. She could swim across to this side easily-in fact, she did so
later in the morning when she was bathing with Philip
Blake. I suggest that she swam across here, came
up to the house, got in through the window, and took something
from the shelf."
Angela Warren said, "I did nothing of the kind-not,
"Ahl" Poirot gave a yelp of triumph.
"You have remera. bered.
You told me-did you not?--that to play a maliciour
joke on Amyas
Crale you pinched some of What you callec
"the cat stuff"-that is how you put it-was
Meredith Blake said sharply, "Valerianl Of
is what made you sure in your mind that it was a cat
who had been in the room. Your nose is very
sensitive. You smelled the faint, unpleasant
odor of valerian without knowing, perhaps, that you did so,
but it suggested to your subconscious mind "cat."
Cats love valerian and will go anywhere for it.
Valerian is particularly nasty to taste, and it was
your account of it the day before which made
mischievous Miss Angela plan to put some in her brother-in-law's beer, which she knew he always
tossed down his throat in a draught." Angela
Warren said wonderingly, "Was it really that day? I
remember taking it perfectly--yes, and I
remember putting it in the beer and Caroline coming in and
nearly catching reel Of course I remember. But
rye never connected it with that particular day." " Of
course not, because there was no connection
in your minead.
The two events were entirely dissimilar to you. One was
on a par with other mischievous pranks, the other was
a bombshell of tragedy arriving without warning and
succeeding in banishing all lesser incidents from your
mind. But me, I noticed when you spoke of it that you
said, 'I pinched, etc., etc.,
it in Amyas's drink." You did not say you had
"No, because I never did. Caroline came in just when
I was unscrewing the bottle. Ohl" It was a
cry. "And Caro
line thought-she thought it was
She stopped. She looked around. She said quietly in her usual cooltones, " I suppose you all
think so, too." She paused and then said,
"'I didn't kill Amyas.
Not as the result of a malicious joke nor in any
other way. If I had I would never have kept
silence." Miss Williams said sharply, "Of
course you wouldn't, my dear." She looked at
Hercule Poirot. "Nobody but a
would think so." "I am not a fool," Poirot said
mildly, "and I do not think so.
1 know quite well who killed Arayas Crale."
He paused. "There is always a danger of accepting
facts as proved which are really nothing of the kind.
Let us take the situation at Alderbury. A very
old situation. Two women and one man. We have
taken it for granted that Amyas Crale proposed
to leave his wife for the other woman. But I suggest
to you now
that he never intended to do anything of the kind.
"He had had infatuations for women before. They
obsessed him while they lasted, but they were soon
over. The women he had fallen in love with
were usually women of a certain experience--they did not
expect too much of him. But thistime the woman did. She yeas not, you see, a woman at all.
She was a girl and, in Caroline Crale's words,
she was terribly sincere. She may have been
hard-boiled and sophisticated in speech, but in
love she was frighten. ingly single-minded.
she herself had a deep and overmastering passion for
Amyas Crale she assumed that he had the same for
her. She assumed without any question that their passion was for
life. She assumed without asking him that he was going
to leave his wife.
"But why, you will say, did Amyas Caccale not
undcv her? And my answer is--the picture. He
wanted to finish his picture.
some people that sounds incredible, but not to anybody who
kn-ows about artists. And we have already accepted that
explanation in principle. That conversation between Crale
and Meredith Blake is more intelligible now.
Crale is embarrassed-pats Blake on the
back, assures him optimistically the whole thing
is going to pan out all right. To Amyas Crale, you
see, everything is simple. He is
painting a picture, slightly encumbered by what he
describes as a couple of jealous, neurotic
women, but neither of them is going to be allowed to interfere with what to him is the most important thing
" If he were to tell Elsa the truth it would be
all up with the picture. Perhaps in the first flush of his
feelings for her he did talk of leaving Caroline.
Men do say these things when they are in love. Perhaps
he merely let it be as
Mut-det Ia Retro61-t 187
umed, as he is letting it be assumed now. He
doesn't care hat Elsa assumes. Let her
think what she likes. Anything oeakeep her
quiet for another day or two.
"Then he will tell her the truth-that things between hem
are over. He has never been a man to be troubled
"He did, I think, make an effort not to get
embroiled ith Elsa to begin with. He warned her
what kind of man Le was, but she would not take
warning. She rushed on to ter fate. And to a man like
Crale, women were fair game. f you had asked
him, he would have said easily that Elsa Cas young-she'd soon get over it. That was the way
Amyas rale's mind worked.
"His wife comwas actually the only person he
cared about t all. He wasn t worrying much about her. She only had o put up with things for a few
days longer. He was furious @cith Elsa for
blurting out things to Caroline, but he still
,ptimistically thought it would be 'all right."
Caroline could forgive him as she had done so often
before, and lsa--Elsa would just have to "lump it."
So simple are the roblems of life to a man like
"But I think that that last evening he became really
@corried. About Caroline, not about Elsa. Perhaps
he went o her room and she refused to speak to him.
At any rate, fter a restless night he took
her aside after breakfast and lurted out the truth.
He had been infatuated with Elsa, ut it was all
over. Once he'd finished the picture he'd
Lever see her again.
"And it was in answer to that that Caroline C'rale
cried ,ut indignantly, "You and your womenl"
That phrase, you ee, put Eddlsa in a class with
others--those others who had one their way. And she added
indignantly, "Some day 'full kill you."
"She was angry, revolted by his
callousness and by his ruelty to the girl When
Philip Bffake saw her in the hall nd heard
her murmur to herself, It s too cruell' it was of
"dislsa she was thinking. "As for Grale, he came out of the library, found
188 Murder In Retrospect with Philip
Blake, and brusquely ordered her down to go on
with the sitting. What he did not know was that Elsa
Greer had been sitting just outside the library
window and had overheard everything. And the account she
gave later of that conversation was not the true one. There
is only her word for it, remember. Imagine the
shock it must have been to her to" hear the truth,
" On the previous afternoon Meredith Blake has
told us that while he was waiting for Caroline to leave
this room he was standing in the doorway with his back to the
room. He was talking to Elsa Greer. That means
that she would have been
him and that
could see exactly what Caroline was doing over his
shoulder--and that she was
the onffity person who could do so.
" She saw Caroline take that poison. She said
nothing, but she remembered it as she sat outside the
library window. "When Amyas Crale came out she made the
excuse of wanting a pull-over and went up
to Caroline Crale's room to look for
thatpoison. Women know where other women are
likely to hide things. She found it and, being careful
not to obliterate any fingerprints or to leave her
own, she drew off the fluid into a fountain-pen
Then she came down again andwent off with Crale to the
Battery Garden. And presently, no doubt, she
poured him out some beer and he tossed it down in his
"Meanwhile, Caroline Crale was seriously
disturbed. When she saw Elsa come up to the house
(this time really to fetch a pull-over), Carohne
slipped quickly down to the Battery Garden and
tackled her husband What he is doing is
shamefull She won't stand for it! It's
unbelievably cruel and hard on the girll
Amyas, irritable at being interrupted, says it's
all settled-whenough the picture is done
he'll send the girl packing! "It's all
settled-I'll send her packing, I tell youl"
"And then they hear the footsteps of the two Blakes,
and Caroline comes out and, slightly embarrassed,
murmurs something about Angela and school and having a lot
Murder In Retrospect 189 to do, and by a
natural association of ideas the two men judge the
conversation they have overheard refers to
and Tll send her packing' becomes I'll see
to her packing."
"And Elsa, pull-over in hand, comes down the path,
cool and smiling, and takes up the pose once more.
"She has counted, no doubt, upon Caroline's being
ected and the coniine bottle being found in her room.
ut Caroline now plays into her hands completely.
She brings down some iced beer and pours it out for her
"Amyas tossed it off, makes a face, and
says, 'Everything tastes foul today."
"Do you not see how significant that remark is?
E. thing tastes
foul? Then there has been something else
that beer that has tastedeaunpleasant and the taste, of which
still in his mouth. And one other point--Philip Blake speaks of
Crale's staggering a little and wonders "if he has
been drinking." But that slight stagger was the
first sign of the eoniine working,
and that means
that it had already been administered to him some time before
Caroline brought him the iced bottle of beer.
"And so Elsa Greer sat on the gray wall and
posed and, since she must keep him from suspecting
until it was too late, she talked to Amyas
Crale brightly and naturally. Presently she saw
Meredith on the bench above and waved her hand to him and
acted her part even more thoroughly for his behalf.
"And Amyas Crale, a man who detested illness
and refused to give in to it, painted doggedly on
till his limbs failed and his speech thickened, and
he sprawled there on that bench, helpless, hut with his
mind still clear.
"The bell sounded from the house and Meredith left the
bench to come down to the Battery. I think in
that brief moment Elsa left her place and ran
across to the table and dropped the last few drops of the
poison into the beer glass that held that last innocent
drink. (she got rid of the dropper on the path up
to the house, crushing it
to powder.) Then she met Meredith in the doorway. "There is a glare there coming in out of the shadows.
Meredith did not see very clearly--only his friend
sprawled in a familiar position and saw his eyes
turn from the picture in what he described as a
"How much did Amyas know or guess? How much his
conscious mind knew we cannot tell, but his hand and his
eye were faithful."
Hercule Poirot gestured toward the picture on
"I should have known when I first saw that picture. For
it is a very remarkable picture. It is the
picture of a murderess painted by her victim--it
is the picture of a girl watching her lover die."
In the silence that followed--a horrified, appalled
si-lence-the sunset slowly flickered away, the
last gleam left the window where it had rested on the
dark head and pale furs of the woman sitting there.
Elsa Dittisham moved and spoke. She
said, "Take them away, Meredith. Leave me with
She sat there motionless until the door shut behind
them. Then she said, "You are very clever, aren't you?"
Poirot did not answer.
She said, "@vhat do you expect me to do? Confess?" He shook his head.
"Because I shall do nothing of the kindl" Elsa said. "And
I shall admit nothing. But what we say here, together,
does not matter. Because it is only your word
"I want to know what you are going to do."
Hercule Poirot said, "I shall do everything I can
to induce the authorities to grant a posthumous
free pardon to Caroline Crale."
Elsa laughed. "How absurdt" she said. "To be
given a free pardon for something you didn't do."
Then she said, "What about me?"
"I shall lay my conclusions before the necessary people. If they
decide there is the possibility of making out a
Murder In Retrospect 191 against you, then they
may act. I will tell you in my opinion there is not
sufficient evidence--there are only
inferences, not facts. Moreover, they will not be
anxious to proceed against anyone in your position
unless there is ample justification for such a
"I shouldn't care," Elsa said. "If I were standing
in the dock, fighting for my life, there might be
something in that--something alive--exciting. I might--enjoy it.
"Your husband would not."
"Do you think I care in the least what my husband would
"No, I do not. I do not think you have ever in your
life cared about what any other person would feel.
If you had, you might be happier."
She said sharply, " Why are you sorry for me?"
"Because, my child, you have so much to learn." *"What have
I got to learn?"
"All the grown-up emotions--pity, sympathy,
understanding. The only things you know--have ever known--are
love and hate."
Elsa said, "I saw Caroline take the confine.
I thought She meant to kill herself. That would have
simplified things. And then, the next morning, I
found out. He told her that he didn't care a
button about me--he had cared, but it was
all over. Once he'd finished the picture he'd
send me packing. She'd nothing to worry about, he
"And she-was sorry for me. Do you understand what that
did to me? I found the stuff and I gave it to him and
I sat there watching him die. I've never felt so
alive, so exultant, so full of power. I watched him die."
She flung out her hands. "I didn't understand that I
him. Afterward I saw her caught in a trap--and that was
no good, either. I couldn't hurt her--she didn't
care--she escaped from it all--half the time she
wasn't there. She and Amyas both escaped--they
went somewherewhere I couldn't get at them. But they
didn't die. I died."
Elsa Dittisham got up. She went across to the
In the hall she passed two young people whose life together
was just beginning. The chauffeur held open the door of the
car. Lady Dittisham got in, and the
chauffeur wrapped the fur rug around her knees. ...
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This note was uploaded on 07/28/2011 for the course LITERATURE 101 taught by Professor Agathachristie during the Spring '11 term at Heritage.
- Spring '11