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THE AUGEAN STABLES
"^ | ^HE situation is an extremely deli|
cate one, M. Poirot."
JL A faint smile flitted across Hercule
Poirot's lips. He almost replied:
"It always is!"
Instead, he composed his face and put
on what might be described as a bedside
manner of extreme discretion.
Sir George Conway proceeded weightily.
Phrases fell easily from his lips--the
extreme delicacy of the Government's
position--the interests of the public-the solidarity of the Party -- the necessity
of presenting a united front -- the power
of the Press--the welfare of the
It all sounded well -- and meant nothing.
Hercule Poirot felt that familiar aching of
the jaw when one longs to yawn and polite173
ness forbids. He had felt the same sometimes
when reading the parliamentary
debates. But on those occasions there had been no need to restrain his yawns.
He steeled himself to endure patiently.
He felt, at the same time, a sympathy for
Sir George Conway. The man obviously
wanted to tell him something--and as
obviously had lost the art of simple
narration. Words had become to him a
means of obscuring facts -- not of revealing
them. He was an adept in the art of the
useful phrase--that is to say the phrase
that falls soothingly on the ear and is
quite empty of meaning.
The words rolled on -- poor Sir George
became quite red in the face. He shot a
desperate glance at the other man sitting
at the head of the table, and that other
"All right, George. I'll tell him.33
Hercule Poirot shifted his gaze from the
Home Secretary to the Prime Minister.
He felt a keen interest in Edward Ferrier -an interest aroused by a chance phrase
from an old man of eighty-two. Professor
Fergus MacLeod, after disposing of a
chemical difficulty in the conviction of a 174
murderer, had touched for a moment on
politics. On the retirement of the famous
and beloved John Hammett (now Lord
Cornworthy) his son-in-law, Edward
Ferrier, had been asked to form a Cabinet.
As politicians go he was a young man -under fifty. Professor MacLeod had said:
"Ferrier was once one of my students.
He's a sound man."
That was all, but to Hercule Poirot it
represented a good deal. If MacLeod
called a man sound it was a testimonial to
character compared with which no popular
or press enthusiasm counted at all.
It coincided, it was true, with the
popular estimate. Edward Ferrier was
considered sound -- just that -- not
brilliant, not great, not a particularly
eloquent orator, not a man of deep learning.
He was a sound man -- a man bred in the
tradition -- a man who had married John
Hammett's daughter -- who had been John
Hammett's right hand man and who could
be trusted to carry on the government of
the country in the John Hammett tradition. For John Hammett was particularly
dear to the people and Press of England.
He represented every quality which was
dear to Englishmen. People said of him:
"One does feel that Hammett's honest." Anecdotes were told of his simp...
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