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Sheila Grant stared at Poirot again.
She was puzzled. She said:
"Who are you really? You weren't at
"No, I was not at the party. I am a friend
of Dr. Stoddart's."
"You're a doctor, too? You don't look
like a doctor."
"My name," said Poirot, contriving
as usual to make the simple statement
sound like the curtain of the first
act of a play, "my name is Hercule
The statement did not fail of its effect.
Occasionally Poirot was distressed to find
that a callous younger generation had never heard of him.
But it was evident that Sheila Grant
had heard of him. She was flabbergasted
-- dumbfounded. She stared and
stared. . . .
It has been said, with or without justification
for the statement, that everyone
has an aunt in Torquay.
It has also been said that everyone has
at least a second cousin in Mertonshire.
Mertonshire is a reasonable distance from
London, it has hunting, shooting and
fishing, it has several very picturesque but
slightly self-conscious villages, it has a good
system of railways and a new arterial road
facilitates motoring to and from the metropolis.
Servants object to it less than they
do to other, more rural, portions of the
British Isles. As a result, it is practically
impossible to live in Mertonshire unless
you have an income that runs into four
figures, and what with income-tax and one
thing and another, five figures is better. Hercule Poirot being a foreigner, had
no second cousins in the county, but he
had acquired by now a large circle of
friends and he had no difficulty in getting
himself invited for a visit in that part of
the world. He had, moreover, selected as
hostess a dear lady whose chief delight was
exercising her tongue on the subject of
her neighbours -- the only drawback being
that Poirot had to submit to hearing a
great deal about people in whom he had
no interest whatever, before coming to the
subject of the people he was interested in.
"The Grants? Oh yes, there are four
of them. Four girls. I don't wonder the
poor General can't control them. What can
a man do with four girls?" Lady Carmichael's
hands flew up eloquently. Poirot
said: "What indeed?" and the lady continued: "Used to be a great disciplinarian in
his regiment, so he told me. But those
girls defeat him. Not like when I was
young. Old Colonel Sandys was such a
martinet, I remember, that his poor daughters -- "
(Long excursion into the trials of the
Sandys girls and other friends of Lady
"Mind you," said Lady Carmichael, reverting to her first theme. "I don't say
there's anything really wrong about those
girls. Just high spirits -- and getting in
with an undesirable set. It's not what it
used to be down here. The oddest people
come here. There's not what you might
call 'county' left. It's all money, money,
money nowadays. And you do hear the
oddest stories! Who did you say ? Anthony
Hawker? Oh yes, I know him. What I
call a very unpleasant young ma...
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