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grey at the temples and blue eyes that held
a worried expression. He stooped a little
and his manner was a trifle hesitant. Moreover, he seemed to find difficulty in coming
to the point.
He said, stammering slightly:
"I've come to you, M. Poirot, with
rather an odd request. And now that I'm
here, I'm inclined to funk the whole thing.
Because, as I see very well now, it's the
sort of thing that no one can possibly do
Hercule Poirot murmured:
"As to that, you must let me judge."
58 Oldfield muttered:
"I don't know why I thought that
perhaps — "
He broke off.
Hercule Poirot finished the sentence.
"That perhaps I could help you? Eh
bien, perhaps I can. Tell me your problem.35
Oldfield straightened himself. Poirot
noted anew how haggard the man looked.
Oldfield said, and his voice had a note
of hopelessness in it:
"You see, it isn't any good going to the
police. . . . They can't do anything. And
yet — every day it's getting worse and
worse. I — I don't know what to do...."
"What is getting worse ?"
"The rumours.... Oh, it's quite simple,
M. Poirot. Just a little over a year ago, my
wife died. She had been an invalid for
some years. They are saying, everyone is
saying, that I killed her — that I poisoned
"Aha," said Poirot. "And did you
poison her ?"
"M. Poirot!" Dr. Oldfield sprang to his feet.
"Calm yourself," said Hercule Poirot.
"And sit down again. We will take it, then,
that you did not poison your wife. But
your practice, I imagine, is situated in a
country district — "
"Yes. Market Loughborough — in
Berkshire. I have always realised that it
was the kind of place where people gossiped
a good deal, but I never imagined that it
could reach the lengths it has done." He
drew his chair a little forward. "M. Poirot,
you have no idea of what I have gone
through. At first I had no inkling of what
was going on. I did notice that people
seemed less friendly, that there was a
tendency to avoid me — but I put it down
to — to the fact of my recent bereavement.
Then it became more marked. In the
street, even, people will cross the road to
avoid speaking to me. My practice is
falling off. Wherever I go I am conscious
of lowered voices, of unfriendly eyes that
watch me whilst malicious tongues whisper
their deadly poison. I have had one or two letters — vile things."
He paused — and then went on:
"And — and / don't know what to do
about it. I don't know how to fight this —
this vile network of lies and suspicion.
How can one refute what is never said
openly to your face ? I am powerless -trapped--and slowly and mercilessly
Poirot nodded his head thoughtfully. He
"Yes. Rumour is indeed the nineheaded
Hydra of Lernea which cannot be
exterminated because as fast as one head
is cropped off two grow in its place."
Dr. Oldfield said: "That's ju...
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