Unformatted text preview: re ?"
She went out and came back again
immediately with paper and sticks. She
knelt down in front of the big Victorian
grate and began to lay a fire.
Hercule Poirot continued to stamp his
feet, swing his arms and blow on his
He was annoyed. His car -- an expensive
Messarro Gratz--had not behaved with
that mechanical perfection which he expected
of a car. His chauffeur, a young
man who enjoyed a handsome salary, had
not succeeded in putting things right. The
car had staged a final refusal in a secondary
road a mile and a half from anywhere with
a fall of snow beginning. Hercule Poirot, wearing his usual patent leather shoes, had
been forced to walk that mile and a half
to reach the riverside village of Hartly
Dene -- a village which, though showing
every sign of animation in summertime,
was completely moribund in winter. The
Black Swan had registered something like
dismay at the arrival of a guest. The landlord
had been almost eloquent as he
pointed out that the local garage could
supply a car in which the gentleman could
continue his journey.
Hercule Poirot repudiated the suggestion.
His Latin thrift was offended. Hire a car ?
He already had a car--a large car--an
expensive car. In that car and no other he
proposed to continue his journey back to
town. And in any case, even if repairs to it
could be quickly effected, he was not going
on in this snow until next morning. He
demanded a room, a fire and a meal.
Sighing, the landlord showed him to the
room, sent the maid to supply the fire and
then retired to discuss with his wife the
problem of the meal. An hour later, his feet stretched out
towards the comforting blaze, Hercule
Poirot reflected leniently on the dinner he
had just eaten. True, the steak had been
both tough and full of gristle, the brusselssprouts
had been large, pale, and definitely
watery, the potatoes had had hearts
of stone. Nor was there much to be said
for the portion of stewed apple and custard
which had followed. The cheese had been
hard, and the biscuits soft. Nevertheless, thought Hercule Poirot, looking graciously
at the leaping flames, and sipping delicately
at a cup of liquid mud euphemistically
called coffee, it was better to be full than empty, and after tramping snowbound
lanes in patent leather shoes, to sit in front
of a fire was Paradise!
There was a knock on the door and the
"Please, sir, the man from the garage is
here and would like to see you."
Hercule Poirot replied amiably:
"Let him mount."
The girl giggled and retired. Poirot
reflected kindly that her account of him to her friends would provide entertainment
for many winter days to come.
There was another knock -- a different
knock -- and Poirot called:
He looked up with approval at the
young man who entered and stood there
looking ill at ease, twisting his cap in his
Here, he thought, was one of the handsomest
specimens of humanity he had
ever seen, a simple young man with the
outward semblance of a Greek god.
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