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permit me. Mademoiselle ?"
He unhooked the picture and took it to
the window. He examined it, then, looking
up, he said:
"I am going to ask you. Mademoiselle,
to give me this picture."
"Well, really, M. Poirot -- "
"You cannot pretend that you are very
attached to it. The painting is abominable." "Oh, it has no artistic merit, I agree.
But it is a pupiFs work and -- "
"I assure you. Mademoiselle, that it is a
most unsuitable picture to have hanging
upon your wall."
"I don't know why you should say that, M. Poirot."
"I will prove it to you in a moment."
He took a bottle, a sponge and some
rags from his pocket. He said: "First I am going to tell you a little story, Mademoiselle. It has a resemblance to the
story of the Ugly Duckling that turned
into a Swan."
He was working busily as he talked. The
odour of turpentine filled the room.
"You do not perhaps go much to
theatrical revues ?"
"No, indeed, they seem to me so
"Trivial, yes, but sometimes instructive.
I have seen a clever revue artist change her
personality in the most miraculous way.
In one sketch she is a cabaret star, exquisite
and glamorous. Ten minutes later,
she is an undersized, anaemic child with
adenoids, dressed in a gym tunic--ten
minutes later still, she is a ragged gypsy
telling fortunes by a caravan."
"Very possible, no doubt, but I do not
see -- "
"But I am showing you how the conjuring
trick was worked on the train.
Winnie, the schoolgirl, with her fair plaits, her spectacles, her disfiguring dental plate
-- goes into the Toilette. She emerges a quarter of an hour later as -- to use the
words of Detective Inspector Heam -- 'a
flashy piece of goods'. Sheer silk stockings,
high heeled shoes -- a mink coat to cover
a school uniform, a daring little piece of
velvet called a hat perched on her curls -and a face -- oh yes, a face. Rouge, powder, lipstick, mascara! What is the real face of
that quick change artiste really like?
Probably only the good God knows! But
you. Mademoiselle, you yourself, you have
often seen how the awkward schoolgirl
changes almost miraculously into the attractive
and well-groomed debutante."
Miss Pope gasped.
"Do you mean that Winnie King disguised
herself as -- "
"Not Winnie King--no. Winnie was
kidnapped on the way across London. Our
quick change artiste took her place. Miss
Burshaw had never seen Winnie King-how was she to know that the schoolgirl
with the lank plaits and the brace on her
teeth was not Winnie King at all ? So far, so good, but the impostor could not
afford actually to arrive here, since you were
acquainted with the real Winnie. So hey presto, Winnie disappears in the Toilette and emerges as wife to a man called Jim
Elliott whose passport includes a wife!
The fair plaits, the spectacles, the lisle
thread stockings, the dental plate--all
that can go into a small space. But the
thick unglamorous shoes and...
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