Unformatted text preview: ntess
Weary, battered, and infinitely
chagrined, Hercule Poirot once more
ascended to ground level and stepped out
into the hubbub of Piccadilly Circus. He
reached home in a mood of pleasurable excitement.
It is the misfortune of small precise
men to hanker after large and flamboyant
women. Poirot had never been able to rid
himself of the fatal fascination the Countess
held for him. Though it was something like
twenty years since he had seen her last the magic still held. Granted that her makeup
now resembled a scene-painter's sunset, with the woman under the make-up well
hidden from sight, to Hercule Poirot she
still represented the sumptuous and the
alluring. The little bourgeois was still
thrilled by the aristocrat. The memory of
the adroit way she stole jewellery roused
the old admiration. He remembered the
magnificent aplomb with which she had
admitted the fact when taxed with it. A
woman in a thousand--in a million!
And he had met her again -- and lost her!
"In Hell," she had said. Surely his ears
had not deceived him ? She had said that ?
But what had she meant by it ? Had she
meant London's Underground Railways?
Or were her words to be taken in a religious
sense ? Surely, even if her own way of life
made Hell the most plausible destination
for her after this life, surely -- surely her
Russian courtesy would not suggest that
Hercule Poirot was necessarily bound for
the same place ?
No, she must have meant something
quite different. She must have meant-- Hercule Poirot was brought up short
against bewilderment. What an intriguing, what an unpredictable woman! A lesser
woman might have shrieked "The Ritz" or "Claridgey. But Vera Rossakoff had
cried poignantly and impossibly: "Hell!33
Poirot sighed. But he was not defeated.
In his perplexity he took the simplest and
most straightforward course on the following
morning, he asked his secretary. Miss
Miss Lemon was unbelievably ugly and
incredibly efficient. To her Poirot was
nobody in particular -- he was merely her
employer. She gave him excellent service. Her private thoughts and dreams were concentrated
on a new filing system which she
was slowly perfecting in the recesses of her
"Miss Lemon, may I ask you a question
"Of course, M. Poirot." Miss Lemon
took her fingers off the typewriter keys and
"If a friend asked you to meet her -- or
him -- in Hell, what would you do ?33
Miss Lemon, as usual, did not pause. She knew, as the saying goes, all the
"It would be advisable, I think, to ring
up for a table," she said.
Hercule Poirot stared at her in a stupefied
He said, staccato^ "You -- would -- ring
-- up -- for -- a table ?"
Miss Lemon nodded and drew the
telephone towards her.
"Tonight ?" she asked, and taking assent
for granted since he did not speak, she
"Temple Bar 14578 ? Is that Hell ? Will
you please reserve a table for two. M. Hercule
Poirot. Eleven o'clock."
She replaced the receiver and her fingers
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